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Analysis: T.J. Hockenson adds edge to the Vikings’ offense

Acquired at the trade deadline, Hockenson excelled in his Vikings debut last week

Minnesota Vikings v Washington Commanders Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Minnesota Vikings made a new addition at the 2022 NFL trade deadline, bringing in former Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson. The tight end made an impact in his Vikings debut last week, recording nine receptions in Minnesota’s 20-17 win over the Washington Commanders.

As the Buffalo Bills prepare to defend the Vikings this week, they need to take into account everything Hockenson does for an offense—which is more than just catching the football.

T.J. Hockenson complementing Vikings receivers

One thing that really helps Hockenson is he’s a complement to the Vikings’ dynamic receiving duo of Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. On this play, Hockenson is aligned in the middle of both. When the play starts, you can see two Commanders defenders looking at Jefferson as he goes left. Thielen goes left as well, and another defender is watching him. Hockenson runs by all three Commanders defenders and runs left and right into the gaping hole in the coverage, then makes a great jumping catch for the reception.

T.J. Hockenson adds physicality to passing attack

One of the best things Hockenson does is he wastes very little movement. The Vikings tight end is lined up in the slot here. Once the play starts, he shuffles his feet and breaks left to catch a pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins. Hockenson wastes no movement as he turns his body and runs straight up the field. As Commanders defenders chase Hockenson, he stiff-arms them and runs through contact, finishing the play off very well.

T.J. Hockenson in pass protection

We see the Vikings trust Hockenson heavily as a pass blocker. When the ball is snapped, Hockenson handles Washington’s edge rusher one-on-one. This allows for the right tackle and right guard to double-team the defensive tackle, and the center and left guard to double-team the other defensive tackle. Then the left tackle blocks the other edge one-on-one. As strong a blocker as Hockenson is, you cannot allow for a tight end to get away with blocking an edge rusher on a pass play one-on-one, and this is something that Buffalo needs to really exploit when it happens.

T.J. Hockenson as a run blocker

Hockenson is aligned on the left side of the line here. When the ball is snapped, Hockenson double teams the edge rusher with the left tackle. Then, Hockenson works his way up to the Commanders linebacker. Hockenson does a solid job of just getting a body on the linebacker (even though he eventually loses the edge). Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is good enough where you don’t need to be perfect blocking. This is something Bills linebackers need to take advantage of. They need to shed quickly and get to the ball carrier.

T.J. Hockenson as a matchup problem for Buffalo

If safety Jordan Poyer is out for the Vikings game, this is a play that could be very concerning. In that case, the Bills would have two backup safeties in the starting lineup, with Jaquan Johnson (or potentially Dean Marlowe) filling in for Poyer. Hockenson chips the edge rusher and releases out, then catches his pass and starts to run upfield for the first down. Hockenson doesn’t get the first down because the Commanders safety makes a perfect form tackle on Hockenson; these are the kinds of quality tackles that the Bills safeties are going to need to routinely make against the Vikings.

In Summary

Hockenson adds an extra dimension to the Vikings in the receiving and blocking game. You can split him out wide, have him play in the slot, or use him as a traditional tight end and line him up right next to the tackle. He’s a big-bodied target who can make athletic catches and moves his body well. In terms of blocking, he is willing and able in both the pass and the run. As he gets used to the Vikings’ offense, they will open up the playbook for him more and more, so the Bills will need to be ready.