A little over a week ago, the Detroit Lions battled until the bitter end before eventually losing to 34-30 to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Unfortunately, the game was not the only thing the Lions lost at Ford Field in Week 4 as rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson suffered a concussion after attempting to hurdle a Chiefs defender.
Luckily, for Hockenson, the Lions had their bye week in Week 5 and they do not play their next game until they travel to take on the Green Bay Packers in Week 6 on Monday Night Football.
But the big question is, will Hockenson be cleared to play against the Packers and if he cannot go, who ‘replaces’ him?
First of all, let’s get something straight. NOBODY available is going to be able to truly replace Hockenson. Not only is he a major threat in the passing game but he has already proven he has what it takes to block when called upon.
That being said, if Hockenson does not clear concussion protocol, the Lions will not have a choice but to replace him in the lineup.
Thin Free Agent Market
One way Lions GM Bob Quinn could ‘relace’ Hockenson if need be, would be to bring in a veteran free agent tight end.
Its no surprise that the free-agent market is not exactly stocked full of options when it comes to tight end but there are a few players Quinn could look at, including a Detroit native.
Those players are Antonio Gates and Ben Watson.
Gates is a Detroit native and though he is 39 years old, he could be a guy Quinn calls if Hockenson is only expected to miss a game or two.
The same can be said for Watson, who was released by the Patriots on Monday. Watson was eligible to return to the Patriots after serving a 4-game suspension, but they decided to let him walk. Like Gates, Watson is pushing 40 (38 years old) but he is a veteran who could give the Lions a couple of games if need be.
If Hockenson is only going to be out short-term, I would be a little surprised if Quinn elected to sign a veteran like Gates or Watson but if he did, Watson would be the guy.
Assuming the Lions elect to pass on the available free agents, they will then be forced to look in-house to replace Hockenson.
When it comes to in-house options there are really two. (I am not including Isaac Nauta, who is on the practice squad and not ready for the big stage)
The first is Jesse James. James was signed by the Lions in the offseason and though he does not have the ability Hockenson has, he has shown he can be a weapon for Matthew Stafford.
The second in-house option is Logan Thomas.
Thomas, in my opinion, will almost certainly be the guy who fills in for Hockenson if need be. He is big (6-6, 250 pounds) and though he cannot touch Hock when it comes to blocking, he absolutely can be a threat in the passing game.
That being said, let’s all hope and pray that Hockenson clears concussion protocol and is active and ready to tear apart the Packers on Monday Night Football!