3. DE Aidan Hutchinson
Hutchinson had a somewhat disappointing and inconsistent start to his rookie season. But he rounded into better form in November, with a NFC Defensive Player of the Week award in Week 11 and ultimately winning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for the month. Being used in ways that better suit him (on the left side of the line, in a two-point stance, etc.) has been good, but the game clearly is slowing down for the No. 2 overall pick in last April’s draft. He’s making reactionary and instinctful plays that he didn’t make the first few weeks of the season.
This week, Lions defensive line coach Todd Wash outlined some rest of season goals for Hutchinson (h/t to SI.com).
"Continue to develop as a pass rusher. We’re keeping him on the left side for the most part, and I think he likes that,” Wash explained. “You know, but just constant pressure is what we’re kind of looking for. And, that’s our expectations, and that’s his expectations."
As for winning Defensive Rookie of the Year, Wash thinks it’s not prominent on his top young pupil’s mind.
"Probably the best thing about Hutch, like we said, he’s a good football player — but he’s a really good human being. I think he’s more worried about us winning games and doing what he can to help us win games,” Lions defensive line coach Todd Wash told reporters Wednesday. “I think if he ends up winning the Rookie of the Year, it’s just some icing on the cake for him. But, that’s the last thing in his mind.”"
With more sacks a prerequisite down the stretch, Hutchinson can absolutely win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. But beyond the shiny statistics, a strong, consistent finish to his rookie season is important for him as a launching point to stardom.