T.J. Hockenson appeared on his way to a standout rookie season with the Detroit Lions after eclipsing 100 yards in his debut. The rest of Hockenson's rookie campaign didn't go as well, culminating with a gruesome ankle injury -- one Hockenson is still recovering from -- on Thanksgiving that ended his season.
Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell updated Hockenson's progress this week, the first update on his ankle since Hockenson was placed on injured reserve last season. The news wasn't fully encouraging.
"As far as I know right now, he's in his running part of the protocol," Bevell said, via Benjamin Raven of mlive.com. "He's on land, he's running, he's running routes, doing that thing. You can't say he's 100% yet, but I think he's well on the way to getting there.
"He's done a great job with his rehab, he's always been a good worker that way. I know he's going to get some time with Matthew (Stafford), throwing and catching. So yeah, I'm comfortable with where he's at with the rehab part."
Hockenson opened his career with a six-catch, 131-yard performance against the Arizona Cardinals, but failed to eclipse 60 receiving yards in any other game. He suffered a brain injury in Week 4, but didn't miss any time during the Lions bye week the next week and played through a shoulder injury in the latter portion of the season.
He finished with 32 catches for 367 yards and two touchdowns, but just 26 catches for 236 yards after Week 1. Last season Hockenson split snaps with Jesse James, who the Lions signed to a four-year, $22.6 million deal last offseason. James played all 16 games, but had an underwhelming 16 catches for 142 yards and no scores.
The plan is to get both tight ends involved again, even though Detroit ran "12 personnel" 18% of the time in 2019 (per Sharp Football Stats).
"We've got to be able to find the good mix, be able to keep the defenses honest, and you'll see, just kind of like last year, you'll see a tight end have a big game," Bevell said regarding the usage of the two tight ends. "So I think you'll still see it move around in terms of who gets the ball, but definitely something I've talked to those guys is about getting them more involved where they're showing up and having games like that."