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Minnesota Vikings plan big role for T.J. Hockenson’s first game

Andrew Buller-Russ

After a better-than-expected 6-1 start for the Minnesota Vikings, first-year general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah swung for the fences, in a mild way, ahead of the NFL trade deadline. Perhaps feeling the pressure from his starting tight end Irv Smith Jr. getting hurt again, the Vikings completed a shocking inner-division trade for Pro Bowl pass-catcher T.J. Hockenson.

Despite being added to the team just five days ago, the Vikings are already making Hockenson a large part of their game plan heading into their Week 9 matchup with the Washington Commanders.

T.J. Hockenson expected to be featured in redzone

NFL: International Series-Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As expected, Hockenson’s biggest role, not only this week but likely in the future as well, will come in scoring range as the Vikes approach the red zone. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Hockenson put in additional work this week, trying to get a head start on learning Kevin O’Connell’s offense.

While it’s not reasonable to expect Hockenson to learn an entire playbook in just five days, the Vikings will try and incorporate him on “third downs, redzone, two-minute” opportunities, as O’Connell alluded to earlier this week.

Hockenson comes into the matchup averaging a career-high 56.4 yards per game. Yet learning a new system with a new QB on the fly isn’t something that should be overlooked.

No matter what, Hockenson is expected to play a lot, and as Tom Pelissero mentioned, the Vikings’ newest tight end will be in most packages on Sunday. With Kirk Cousins heading back to Washington for the first time since departing his former organization, the excitement offensively will be at “you like that!” levels.

The Vikings are aiming to win their sixth consecutive game, but they’re taking on a Commanders team who is also burgundy-hot, as they’ve won three in a row and are hoping to get back above .500 with a win on their home field.

Related: 2022 NFL offense rankings: Packers face NFL’s worst defense in Week 9