Aidan Hutchinson was double-teamed like an elite edge rusher as a rookie

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

Aidan Hutchinson was everything the Detroit Lions could’ve hoped he’d be as a rookie, and he was also double-teamed at a rare rate.

It was not without ups and downs, particularly early, but Lions rookie defensive end Aidan Hutchinson ended up having a Defensive Rookie of the Year-worthy campaign this season (9.5 sacks, nine tackles for loss, three interceptions).

He also almost never came off the field, playing 958 snaps (84 percent snap share; second-most snaps among all NFL defensive lineman this season; second-most snaps for a rookie defensive lineman ever).

Sometimes being double-teamed is a testament to an opponent not being scared of anyone else wrecking their day. Other times it’s a sheer, simple, sign of respect for someone as a player. Often, it’s a mix of both.

ESPN analytics guy Seth Walder created a graph (using NFL Next Gen Stats too) plotting double-team rate (x-axis) and pass rush win rate (y-axis) for edge rushers with enough snaps to qualify for inclusion during the 2022 regular season.

Aidan Hutchinson was double-teamed like an elite edge rusher as a rookie

Hutchinson’s pass rush win rate here, defined as winning your matchup in 2.5 seconds or less and even as subjective as it could be, is pretty dismal. But pure pass rush rep volume can help drive down a percentage of pass rush “wins”, and Hutchinson isn’t that far below Khalil Mack, Matthew Judon and Danielle Hunter.

What’s more notable is Hutchinson’s double-team rate. Only Browns defensive end Myles Garrett sits on the 30 percent line with him, and only four others (Micah Parsons, Za’Darius Smith, Jerry Hughes and Trevis Gipson) are at 25 percent of more.

So Hutchinson was double-teamed like he’s an elite edge rusher right away as rookie. It’d be interesting to see how the emergence of fellow rookie James Houston late in the season (eight sacks in seven games) impacted that double-team rate. But the pure eye test during games may say it didn’t effect it that much.

Next year though, Houston and others are lined up to make Lions’ opponents really pay if they double-team Hutchinson so much.

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