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Notes: T.J. Hockenson explains how he fell in love with the tight end position

Tyler Dunne of Go Long sat down with Lions’ tight end T.J. Hockenson to discuss life as a tight end, and why Iowa is the real Tight End U.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

As part of his ongoing series “Tight End Days”, Tyler Dunne of Go Long sat down with Detroit Lions’ tight end T.J. Hockenson to discuss any and all things tight end.

From a high-level perspective, we have come a long way in terms of how we view tight ends. It wasn’t all that long ago when they were thought of as extra tackles. For the most part, their first duty was to be a good blocker, and if you could catch a pass or two in the red zone, that was just considered gravy. Take Lions head coach Dan Campbell as an example. During his 10 years as a player in the league, he was one of the better blocking tight ends in the game. Sure, he could catch a pass if it came his way, but nobody was confusing him for a game-breaking receiving threat.

Fast forward to now, and the position looks completely different. Stars like the Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce and second-year Kyle Pitts of the Atlanta Falcons have the speed and route-running abilities of a receiver, coupled with the size and physicality of tight ends. For opposing defensive coordinators, players like those two are matchup nightmares. Too big and strong for most cornerbacks, and too explosive for the majority of linebackers and safeties.

However, not everything has shifted towards the receiving aspect of playing tight end. George Kittle, star tight end for the San Francisco 49ers and good friend of Hockenson, is widely regarded as the best blocking tight end in football. Being able to both block at a high level and be an elite receiver makes Kittle somewhat of a unicorn in today’s game. It’s also part of the reason why there is such a steep learning curve for tight ends, because they are asked to do so much in both the running and passing games.

“You need to know protections because you’re in on a lot of them. You’ve got to know the run game because you’re schemed up in them” Hockenson told Dunne. “That was always my favorite part about the position — being on the same page as the quarterback. Because you had to know everything. If something wasn’t right, he looks at you and goes, ‘Is that right?’ And it’s ‘Yeah, we’re good, we’re good.’ It depends on which way we’re going. There’s weak plays, other plays. It’s a cool position because you’re able to talk to guys in a sense of depth not everyone in the locker room can.”

You can read the entirety of the conversation between Dunne and Hockenson here, where they discuss Iowa being Tight End U, who would win in a beer drinking competition between Hockenson and Kittle, and much more.

(And don’t forget Dunne’s excellent read on the Lions offensive line, which he talked about with us earlier this year.)

And now, onto the rest of today’s notes:

  • With the trade deadline fast approaching, ESPN’s NFL Nation reporters each offer one player that could be dealt by November 1.

  • Some statistics comparing the Lions and the Miami Dolphins ahead of their Week 7 matchup.

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