Aidan Hutchinson is heading into his first NFL game this Sunday against the Eagles, and despite that fact, the 6-foot-7, 265-pound right defensive end chosen second overall in the 2022 NFL Draft out of Michigan is going to be trouble for Eagles’ left tackle Jordan Mailata. Hutchinson is cut from the mold of a Chase Young, Nick Bosa, Myles Garrett. He has a great first step, plays the edge with a high intensity, and he won’t always get there, though he will bend the pocket for Jalen Hurts.
Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen is quite aware of Hutchinson.
“He’s a heck of a football player,” Steichen said. “I just talked about him as a football player, watching him in college, I mean he’s explosive, he’s long, he’s powerful. You saw in the preseason him coming off the edge, just the explosiveness he plays with. So, we have to be ready for him. I think in whole their defense, you watch them in the preseason game, just the way they’re flying around with energy and effort, it’s showing up big time from last year to this year.
“In the NFL, right, every game is going to be a challenge. I don’t care who you play, where you play. You have to be ready to go. They have some good players. (DL Michael) Brockers is still there, linebackers, 34 (Alex Anzalone), 55 (Derrick Barnes); they have the rookie, (Malcolm) Rodriguez, 44; the corners, 1 (Jeff Okudah), 24 (Amani Oruwariye), and then the safeties, 5 (DeShon Elliott) and 21 (Tracy Walker III), are good players; and they have (Mike) Hughes from Kansas City.
“All those guys are flying around making plays, so we have to be ready for it.”
This is also going to be a different Lions’ front. Detroit had just 30 sacks last season, the third fewest in the NFL. Ironically, only the Eagles (29) and Atlanta Falcons (18) had fewer.
“We changed a lot of our philosophy up front. It’s going to get us more attacking,” Lions’ defensive line coach Todd Wash said. “We’re kind of an attack and react. We still don’t run around blocks. We’re not going to create vertical seams like you do with a lot of true attack fronts. So, we’re kind of a happy medium. Last year we were all read, and then this year we’re attack and react. For us, we’re going to attack right through the edge of people and if they block us, then we’ve got to cover them up.”
Detroit’s defense was brutalized on run defense. That will be a high priority in stopping the Eagles on Sunday.
Last season, Detroit finished 28th against the run last season, allowing an average of 135.1 yards a game. The Lions allowed opposing teams to rush for 180 yards or more five times in 2021, Cleveland (184), Denver (184), Chicago (188), Seattle (265) and to the Eagles (236) in a 44-6 loss, Detroit’s biggest defeat last season.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written features for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, and his breaking story on Carson Wentz for PhillyVoice on January 21, 2019. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.