This is so early in the season, if even one player from your rookie class is playing to a high standard, you’re doing well. If you had two that quickly became key pieces in your defense? Well, then you truly cooking. This is exactly the place Detroit LionsGeneral Manager Brad Holmes and coach Dan Campbell are currently finding themselves.
Aidan Hutchinson and sixth-round linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez were instrumental in the Lions’ 36-27 week two victory over the Washington captains. All of them started the game, did several influential plays, and were heavily relied upon for how much they were on the court.
Let’s take a look at how each member of the 2022 class of the Lions beat Washington.
Aidan Hutchinson, DL
60 shots (81% of all defensive shots) – 2 special shots (6%)
PFF Defensive Score: 57.7
No, things weren’t perfect in front of Hutchinson. After all, this is only the second game in his young career. But man, can we appreciate his performance a bit? Six full tackles, three sacks in the middle, Carson Wentz, and two extra tackles for a loss.
Similar to last week, defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn moved Hutchinson depending on down and distance. Moving around the line can seem daunting to a young passer – as each point has its own unique responsibilities. However, this coaching staff praised Hutchinson’s style as a professional from the start, and it was much that made him a desirable candidate against Washington.
Take Washington’s first offensive series as an example. It’s third and fourth with Wentz in the gun on the left hash. Hutchinson lines up in technique three and soon after receiving the snatcher, Wentz must climb into the pocket due to a delayed attacking linebacker Chris Burd of the Lions. Noting this, Hutchinson pivots and begins to run toward the line of scrimmage as Wentz climbs into the jeep. Wentz is somehow able to dodge linebacker Julian Okwara before Hutchinson finally manages to put him on the floor, resulting in a kick in Washington.
He didn’t win the initial dash or even the counter, but back in training camp and pre-season – we saw Hutchinson running from behind. The effort is always there for him.
Another example of Hutchinson’s efforts emerged early in the second quarter. Wentz again works out the gun, with Hutchinson lining up outside Washington’s proper intervention. When the ball is cut, the novice player intervenes with his hands, pushing it back. Wentz advances into the pocket, causing Hutchinson’s arc to end behind where the quarterback has now been moved. But as Wentz drifts left in the jeep to escape pressure from Charles Harris, Hutchinson is already torn apart and is once again able to bring down Wentz from behind.
His third sack was the result of a beautiful match that took place along the front. Hutchinson, John Kominsky, and Charles Harris lined up on one side of the center. Cominsky explodes into the lead, occupying both the center and the goalkeeper, freeing the rookie from turning around and ending up facing the quarterback.
Once the swipe bag gets a little deeper, and the moves themselves become more obvious – the more solo play will win. I’m not really worried about that at all. But for now, I would gladly enjoy what ex Wolverine this defense is currently offering.
Jameson Williams, WR
DNP: Recovering from a knee injury suffered in January
Josh Paschal, DL
DNP: recovery from sports hernia surgery
Kirby Joseph, S
0 (0%) – 16 (50%)
Joseph was restricted to special task forces against commanders.
James Mitchell, TE
DNP: has been inactive for week 2
Malcolm Rodriguez, left-back
54 (73%) – 10 (31%)
PFF Defensive Score: 74.2
I wonder how many teams in the NFL are now kicking themselves for letting someone like Rodriguez fall into the sixth round? Every time I think expectations could go up a little bit for a rising linebacker, he resets the bar.
After receiving the second-highest cheer during the player’s introduction (behind Hutchinson only), the Detroit Cowboy played himself an eight tackle and hit a quarterback. Not a dominant base line by any means, but with the quarterback running, a lot of what they do goes unnoticed on the stat sheet.
Playing 73 percent of defensive shots tells us a few things, with the main point being that this team trusts Rodriguez enough to leave him on the field in almost all situations. It makes up for its lack of relative size in position through quick diagnosis and response. It’s also better at getting rid of lumps than I initially gave credit for, and at times, it just slips under the lumps completely.
His skills as a covering defender will evolve with time and experience, but with the way he plays, you might think that Oklahoma The product is a seasoned NFL veteran.
By the end of the season, we might see midfield coach Kelvin Sheppard in some of his Cowboy boots.
Chase Lucas, DB
2 (3%) – 13 (41%)
Defensive grade PFF: 62.4
Lucas may have only been on the field for a couple of defensive pieces, but he and linebacker Jamal Williams were among the most active in trying to excite the crowd.
Unformulated free agents
Demetrius Taylor, DL
DNP: has been inactive for week 2