Lions' Matt Patricia: T.J. Hockenson’s season is over because of ankle injury
Allen Park — T.J. Hockenson’s rookie season is over.
The tight end, drafted No. 8 overall out of Iowa, will be placed on injured reserve Monday, Lions coach Matt Patricia said.
The news comes after Hockenson was injured in Thursday’s game against Chicago, suffering a nasty right ankle injury. He was reportedly seen in a boot and also on a one-leg scooter in the locker room after the game.
"He was consistent from Day 1, someone that kind of worked really hard, and I think he improved as far as spring, training camp and as the season went on," Patricia said. "He performed his task and understood the difference between the college game and the pro game."
Hockenson had a season-high 11 targets in Thursday’s 24-20 loss, finishing his season by tying his season-high with six receptions that went for 18 yards.
He compiled 32 receptions for 367 yards and two touchdowns after bursting on to the scene in a major way in his first NFL game, catching six passes for 131 yards and a score in Week 1 against Arizona, a 27-27 tie.
"Something hopefully we can build on," Patricia said. "We know how difficult it is to make the jump from Year 1 to Year 2, but for us and him right now, it's day by day."
Patricia said he did not have the specifics yet about whether Hockenson will need surgery on the ankle.
Tight end coach Chris White expects Hockenson to be in the building as much as he can the rest of the season. The rookie will be given projects to perform, and Hockenson will extensively be tasked with studying his own tape from this year.
"There were a lot of positives," White said. "The grind of it. He battled through a bunch of injuries. I know he's a really tough kid."
Hockenson suffered a concussion earlier this season but did not miss a game, recovering during the bye week.
White said part of the reason Hockenson's numbers stalled was because he was used in blocking to help offensive linemen on some of the league's top pass rushers, and because the passing game was hot with big numbers for Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr.
"I don't know if you see some of the stuff we're doing to help the ball get off to Marvin and Kenny," White said. "He just needs to continue to learn football.
"It's like most kids. But at the tight end position, you need to know everything. You need to know the run game, the pass game, the protection game, the whole thing. You can't just focus on one thing. There's a lot there."
Without Hockenson, Logan Thomas and Jesse James will see increased roles, and White said rookie Isaac Nauta may transition back to his natural tight end position after spending his first NFL action as a fullback.
"We'll figure out the game plan this week and try to get them all involved," White said.
Detroit has lost five straight games and eight of their last nine, as a strong 2-0-1 start has fizzled to a 3-8-1 campaign heading into the season's final quarter.
The Lions also placed quarterback Jeff Driskel on injured reserve over the weekend, ending his season. The team signed quarterback Kyle Sloter from the Arizona practice squad.
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.