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Hutchinson talks defensive mindset heading into 2024 season

There were a couple minor skirmishes between the offensive and defensive lines in last Thursday's open minicamp practice that amounted to nothing more than some pushing and shoving before head coach Dan Campbell got the team together for a talk.

Pro Bowl edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson was asked about it after practice, and he said the minor dust-ups are part of a bigger picture mindset Detroit has on defense going into 2024.

"Just trying to change the mindset on defense," Hutchinson said.

"More aggressive, riled up, fired up?" a reporter asked.

"Yeah," Hutchinson replied. "Just a mindset like that."

An aggressive defense is a dangerous defense, and that's the mindset defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn has going into 2024. Glenn hopes to play a more smothering style of man defense this season, and the ability to marry the pass rush and cover in the secondary is critical to that.

"It's smothering when it comes to defense and that's who I am as a coach," Glenn said last week. "I like to smother the offense."

That mentality, plus all the additions the Lions made on that side of the football this season, has Detroit's defensive players entering the season with a different mindset and the belief they can take a step to being one of the more consistent units in the NFL.

"I feel like last year he definitely at some point in that season he really turned to his true self of being an aggressive play caller. I think that definitely helped us out a lot," Hutchinson said of Glenn and the defense last season.

"It helped our defense. It's fun being an aggressive defense being with a coach who's willing to put it on the line and when you keep adding great personnel to that same defense those plays can only be executed at a higher level."

Glenn went after offenses via the blitz to generate pressure more later in the season. While it did generate the desired pressure, it also led to some big plays against in the passing game in one-on-one coverage behind it.

With the additions of veteran cornerbacks Carlton Davis III and Amik Robertson and the drafting of cornerbacks Terrion Arnold and Ennis Rakestraw Jr. with Detroit's first two picks, Glenn and the Lions believe they've significantly improved their secondary and are in a much better place to play man defense.

Couple that with the additions of veterans DJ Reader and Marcus Davenport upfront to join Hutchinson and Alim McNeill, along with the healthy return of James Houston and the continued development of young players like Josh Paschal and others, Detroit feels they have the horses upfront to generate consistent pressure with just their defensive line. That will open all kinds of play call possibilities for Glenn.

View photos from Day 6 of Detroit Lions OTA practice on Friday, May 31, 2024 in Allen Park, Mich.

Hutchinson is going to be the catalyst for that upfront. He said a defensive end's best friend is a cornerback who can lock down and he thinks he has a few of those now. That could be a scary prospect for opposing quarterbacks around the league.

Hutchinson finished last season first in quarterback hits (23) and second in pressures (101) and quarterback hurries (67), also chipping in 11.5 sacks, despite the fact Detroit ranked 27th against the pass.

Hutchinson said he's reached a new level this year with his body composition and pass-rush development and now he's got more help upfront and in the secondary. If that pushes a quarterback a step his way or gives him an extra half second or second to get home, Hutchinson could be on the cusp of a monster 2024 season.

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