Detroit Lions assistant general manager Ray Agnew couldn't hide the smile on his face when asked this week about rookie pass rusher Aidan Hutchinson and the training camp performance he had in Detroit.
"I can't stop smiling," Agnew admitted. "I love the kid, the kid's relentless, effort, and much better athlete than you thought he was in the draft process. Man, the things he can do rushing the passer, inside, off the edge, using his hands. He's very creative as a rusher. I would just say this, we got the right one."
To which general manager Brad Holmes quickly chimed in.
"Absolutely," Holmes said during the joint press conference the two Lions front office leaders had this week.
When Jacksonville drafted Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker No. 1 overall in this year's NFL Draft, Holmes couldn't turn Detroit's draft card in fast enough with Hutchinson's name on it.
Hutchinson has been terrific all through training camp, and he's expected to play a huge role in transforming a pass rush that recorded the third fewest sacks in the NFL a year ago. Hutchinson can play anywhere across the defensive line, and the Lions have been featuring their NASCAR package, where Hutchinson shifts inside to the three technique and becomes an interior rusher, quite a bit in camp. It allows them to put more of their best pass rushers on the field at the same time.
Holmes and Agnew knew Hutchinson was going to be an immediate impact player, but he's even exceeded their expectations to begin his Lions career.
"With Aidan, we pretty much knew that he was a high floor player," Holmes said. "But that also comes as a question mark when it comes to draft sometimes, because it's like, 'Oh, well what's his upside? Is it –?'
"But there were a lot of things that we knew that he could get better at, and so him having the immediate impact that he's had so far, again, he hasn't played a regular season NFL game yet, but since he stepped out there on the grass, he made it known pretty quickly that he was about business. And there are some things that he's shown that I think some people didn't even know that he had."
View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Thursday, September 1, 2022.
Those things include his advanced tool box of pass-rush moves, his attention to detail when it comes to technique, and like Agnew said, he's even exceeded Detroit's expectations with the athleticism and versatility he's shown.
Hutchinson is a rookie, so there's still a lot of room for improvement, but it's safe to say the excitement level for what he can bring to the Lions' defense is sky high as the team prepares for their Week 1 matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles at Ford Field next Sunday.