Austin Hooper had the best season of his career in 2018, and now the Atlanta Falcons tight end hopes he can take another positive step forward in 2019.
To do that, the 24 year old says he has to be more consistent, a trait he admitted to having some trouble with earlier in his career, but which he may have solved this past season.
“That [consistency] was the biggest challenge for me,” Hooper said in a conversation with Bleacher Report’s “The Lefkoe Show”.
“I did my best to rise up to that challenge. Because there were a lot of people who, well I mean, it’s all on me. There were some times when I wasn’t consistent, and I fully admit to that. It’s just growing pains in the league, being 22. I grew up a little more. I still, in no way, shape, or form have it figured out. I just found stuff that has worked for me so far and am just trying to build on it.”
The tight end caught 71 passes against 88 targets from Matt Ryan last season for 660 total yards and four receiving touchdowns in his third NFL season.
Those numbers represent an increase from the 49 catches Hooper had against his 65 targets from Ryan for 526 yards and three touchdowns in the 2017 season when Atlanta made the playoffs.
Moreover, Hooper caught nearly 81 percent of the passes targeted for him by Ryan, the NFL’s best mark at the tight end position all last season.
The secret to making that progress was getting on the same mental wavelength with his quarterback, putting himself in position to make the most of the situations in front of them.
“It’s evident by how many opportunities you get,” he said. “Just understanding that, in this situation, Matt’s brain thinks like this, so knowing the way Matt thinks versus this specific look, then I need to use my best stuff right here.”
Hooper made a case that the Falcons wide receiver group can be considered the best in the National Football League, a fact owing not only to their talent, but to their camaraderie.
“Our receiver room is incredible,” Hooper said.
“You got Julio, Mohamed, that room, with Raheem Morris as wide receivers coach, it’s absurd. We share a wall, tight end room is here, receiver room is here, all you hear is just non stop laughter, yelling, screaming, arguably the best receiver room in all of football. Now Calvin Ridley’s in there, who in my opinion is the best young wide receiver in football.”
With the combination of Hooper’s improvement, Ryan’s passing efficiency, and the talent of their wide receivers, the Falcons believe they can make another run for the playoffs out of the NFC this season.