T.J. Hockenson Might Be Exactly What The Vikings Needed

At the 2022 NFL Trade Deadline, the Minnesota Vikings swung a massive deal with the divisional rival Detroit Lions, trading a 2023 second-round pick and a 2024 third-round pick for a 2023 fourth-round pick, a conditional 2024 fourth-round pick (it becomes a fifth-rounder if the Vikings win a playoff game), and the services of Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson.

The acquisition of Hockenson excited Vikings fans, and rightfully so. The team hasn’t had a tight end this good since Kyle Rudolph was in his prime. At only 25, Hockenson had a chance to give the Vikings a new, exciting young offensive weapon to pair alongside superstar receiver Justin Jefferson.

Well, after a great team debut, Hockenson proved that he may just be exactly what the Vikings needed.

Hockenson’s Hard Work Paid Off In His Viking Debut
It was only five days ago that Hockenson was sent to the Vikings, meaning that he needed to be up to speed with the team’s playbook pretty quickly if he wanted to make an immediate impact.

It took a lot of work from Hockenson, tight end coach Brian Angelichio, and head coach Kevin O’Connell, but the newest Viking quickly showed why his new team valued him so highly. Hockenson’s nine catches went for 70 yards and led the team, and he was also targeted on three of the Vikings’ five first half possessions. Four of Hockenson’s catches came on the first and last offensive drives of the game for the Vikings, and three of them proved instrumental in the Vikings getting 10 points out of those drives. For all you history buffs out there, Hockenson’s nine catches was the first time a Viking tight end had that number of catches in a game since 2018.

Hockenson’s presence didn’t just help out this offense, though.

Hockenson’s Presence Enabled Teammates To Have More Opportunities
Although Jefferson came into this game having three 100-yard contests, he hadn’t scored a touchdown since his monster Week 1 game against the Packers. That changed in this game, as Jefferson caught the team’s first touchdown of the day and, like Hockenson, had several key catches that helped set up the Vikings in scoring position. He also played a big role in the team’s 10-point fourth-quarter comeback, most notably catching a 47-yard pass to help set up a Viking field goal that kickstarted the comeback.

At 6-foot-5, Hockenson is a big body, and he is rightfully seen as a major threat in the red zone. This enabled both Jefferson and teammate Dalvin Cook to get more red zone opportunities, and both scored in that zone. Some of this needs to be attributed to the presence of Hockenson, as defensive coordinators anticipate quarterback Kirk Cousins targeting his big-bodied tight end when the team is in scoring range. His presence will allow for Jefferson, Cook, and the other Vikings to have a greater presence in the red zone as more attention will be focused on him and not on his teammates.

Tight ends are playing a big role in today’s passing game more than ever, as they are expected to both block and catch the ball. As a result, defenses are sending more safeties and linebackers to cover them because of how talented today’s tight ends are when it comes to both faucets of the game. Hockenson is no exception to this, and the Vikings can use this to their advantage and get other offensive players more involved.

What To Expect From Hockenson Going Forward
Like any great tight end, Hockenson will have his good days and bad days. He might pop off one week for over 150 receiving yards plus a touchdown or two, and then proceed to wet the bed the next week with a couple or even no catches that don’t amount to anything significant.

I wouldn’t expect days like today all the time with Hockenson. There are going to be days like this where he makes a few big catches and opens the door for other teammates to have more opportunities when it comes to offensive production, and there will be days where he is taken almost completely out of the game by the opposing defense and the other Vikings around him will need to step it up.

If you really think about that though, it’s a win for the Vikings either way. Jefferson is being taken out of the game? Okay, let’s throw to Hockenson and run it with Cook. Want to take Hockenson out of the game? No problem. Your defense will likely get torched by Jefferson and/or Cook.
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