Three sacks in the first half of Week 2, three interceptions as an edge rusher, and 53 total pressures later, Detroit Lions EDGE Aidan Hutchinson’s rookie year was nothing short of spectacular. The second overall pick that was expected to represent a foundational piece within the hashes and be a pillar for a success-hungry Lions franchise somehow exceeded expectations in his first taste of NFL action.
A favorite for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, Hutchinson was exactly who general manager Brad Holmes thought he’d be as a dynamic pass rusher out of Michigan. Hutchinson’s play in 17 games could be just an appetizer for a defensive stalwart that could challenge for All-Pro nods and DPOY awards in the near future. With 11 total sacks, 53 pressures, and 37 QB hurries, Hutchinson’s ability to consistently pressure the pocket each and every week showcased an athlete beyond his years in the art form that is threatening the edge.
Hutchinson was flat-out unblockable against the Washington Commanders, amassing not one, not two, but a trio of sacks on Carson Wentz in the first 30 minutes of play. A T-E stunt with the DT bull-rushing the A-gap, seeing Hutchinson in the hole unblocked is a barrel no quarterback wants to look down. Quick to pursue but always with an approach where he rarely is out of position, the variety of ways in which Hutchinson was asked to attack the quarterback kept offensive coordinators up late into the night.
Then he’s able to do things like this, where his football intelligence pops off the screen. A decoy of sorts at the snap where he looks completely uninvolved, Hutchinson’s ability to make a play on the football like a corner in zone is just silly. It’s a tip of the cap toward something we always talk about, his football IQ. His understanding of the game is off the charts as such a young player.
Quick to win with his hands, his approach at 5-tech is beyond his years. Each and every snap he has a plan of attack, whether it’s to the inside, jumping to the outside, converting speed to power, or having a counter for the hand placement of a tackle, he’s always under control. Like a hitter in baseball, whether an offensive lineman is looking to beat him quick (fastball) by establishing his hands, or slow-playing him (offspeed) into stalling his feet, Hutchinson can adjust to whatever tactic thrown his way on each pass pro rep.
Oftentimes, we’ve seen Aaron Rodgers escape pressure like this when defensive ends aren’t able to control their speed once they reach their landmark. But Hutchinson’s ability to beat the tackle, get his hands in the passing lane, then wrangle down Rodgers in fifth gear is high-level stuff.
Power, strength, and then add on some more power, he can beat you in whatever way you want him to. Overset and he’ll hop to the inside. Fail to dig your cleats in the dirt and you’ll get driven back five yards into the lap of the quarterback.
A glimpse of his ability to bull rush then disengage to the opposite side of the formation, Hutchinson is the only Lion to win his rep here despite getting doubled late in the snap. While he could have shut down the engine and allowed Rodgers to extend the play, throwing Nijman’s hands to the side for what was his first sack of the evening set the tone for what was a dominant performance in the finale of a potentially award-winning rookie campaign.