Rookie defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson has been with the starters on defense since Day 1 of training camp and is expected to get the veteran treatment Saturday when both the Colts and Lions are likely to sit the majority of their starters in the second preseason game for both clubs.
With the starters not likely to play in preseason game No. 3 in Pittsburgh as well, Lions fans might have to wait until Sept. 11 and the Lions season opener against Philadelphia at Ford Field to see Hutchinson in a game setting again. But don't worry, Hutchinson says he's in regular-season form already.
"I'm ready to go," he said after Thursday's second of two joint practices with the Colts this week ahead of Saturday's preseason matchup. "I just want to get there. All the preseason, all the camp stuff, it's good getting better, but man, you just want to get to that Week 1 and get into the season and get rolling. Getting a little antsy."
Hutchinson has been exactly what the Lions thought he was when they made him the No. 2 overall pick in this year's NFL Draft, not even waiting for their allotted 10 minutes to expire before making the pick after Jacksonville passed on him at No. 1.
View photos from Day 1 of Lions-Colts joint practice on Wednesday August 17, 2022.
He's been a playmaker since Day 1 of camp, and this week's joint practices with the Colts, who have a terrific offensive line, has helped reaffirm that he can be a playmaker for this defense this season. He was dominant in one-on-one pass-rush drills with the Colts linemen the past two days, recorded a couple would-be sacks, and even recovered a fumble on Thursday.
"We've said it every day he's been here, there's just been – he's just improved a little bit more each time, and he got into the game (vs. Atlanta last week) and did some good things," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said earlier this week.
"Now, let's see how he does against these guys. These are good players now, he's going to be going against so let's see what happens out there."
Hutchinson passed that test, too. So next up is likely to be Philadelphia and the start of what the Lions hope is a sensational rookie season that helps this defense turn it around.
The Lions' offense started slow in Wednesday's joint practice with the Colts, but by the second half of practice, quarterback Jared Goff and the offense looked really good. They were moving the football and scoring in the red zone.
It turns out the difference from the start of practice to the team periods was the addition of the offensive line.
"When the o-line came over we were different," Campbell said Thursday. "I loved it. I loved it, it was good. It was good to see those guys go eat in the middle. I thought some of our combination blocks in the middle there, in the run game, but the pass protection as well as our play pass stuff is as good as I've seen in a while which is encouraging.
"So, that fired me up, they got our tempo going when the big boys came over. So, that was good to see."
Detroit's offensive line is expected to be one of the strengths of this football team this season, so it's really no surprise.
View photos from the Detroit Lions' trip to Indianapolis for joint practices and their Week 2 preseason game against the Colts.
IN A GOOD PLACE
Defensive lineman Austin Bryant was hurt most of his first two seasons in the NFL, playing in just 10 games combined. He played in 14 games last season and recorded a respectable 4.5 sacks.
If training camp is any indication of what we can expect from Bryant in Year 4, he might be in line for his best season yet. He's had a good camp and was arguably the most disruptive player on the field for the Lions' defense during Thursday's practice with the Colts.
"I've made some plays, it's been good," Bryant said Thursday. "It does do a lot for my confidence. I think it just goes with experience. This is my fourth year. You all know my story, I dealt with injuries. I finally got a good two offseasons to get healthy.
"Finally in a scheme where I feel fits the way I like to play. Finally in a culture where you get to work hard and have fun and be ourselves. I'm just grateful for this year and grateful to be in this position."
With Romeo Okwara and Julian Okwara currently out because of injuries, Bryant has taken advantage of his opportunities and he's trending toward being part of the rotation on the edge to start the year.
Veteran tight end Devin Funchess left practice Wednesday with an injury that Campbell described as a stinger. Funchess didn't practice Thursday, but seems to have avoided serious injury.