After leading all rookie in sacks and pressures last year, Detroit Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson has his eye on even more in his second season. He is tied for the league lead in quarterback pressures through four weeks (27, via Pro Football Focus), and after going without a sack in the first two games of the season he has 3.5 over the last two contests.
After playing more snaps last year (958; 84 percent of the Lions' defensive snaps) than all but one defensive lineman (Maxx Crosby) in the NFL, Hutchinson has played 91 percent of the Lions' defensive snaps through four games this year. He takes pride in that workload, while maintaining his effectiveness throug the entire game.
"I pride myself on how I work in the offseason and how I really take care of my body all throughout the year," Hutchinson said. "That kind of sets me up to stay away from those injuries that keep you out week to week, and really have me in there and feeling fresh for a lot of those plays."
Aidan Hutchinson embracing a subtle change in where he rushes the passer from
Lions senior defensive assistant John Fox was the New York Giants' defensive coordinator in 2001, when Michael Strahan set the single-season sack record with 22.5 (tied by T.J. Watt in 2021). Apparently, a conversation with Fox during training camp spurred Hutchinson to embrace not just rushing off the edge after he had been hesitant.
"John Fox came up to me in camp and was telling me when Michael Strahan broke the sack record that like half of his sacks were on the interior. He was saying every edge guy, none of them want to rush inside, but it can be a lot easier, just depending on how things go, to get production," Hutchinson said. "After I heard that, I kinda just committed to it and was like, 'Alright, screw it, dude. I'm gonna just listen to the old man and do it.'"
Even if Fox embellished about Strahan a little bit, the message got through to Hutchinson about embracing being a little harder for opposing offensive lines to account for. He has had notable sacks rushing from the inside and beating a guard in the last couple games, to reinforce the idea.
As it turns out, a vulnerable rookie guard is on the Panthers' offensive line this week.
The proverbial dam has broken for Hutchinson on the sack front over the last couple weeks. It looks like it will continue, as he (insert scary thought for opponents) he finds avenues to get better.