NOTEBOOK: Rookie Hand continues to impress

Look at the Pro Football Focus grades for interior defensive linemen through seven weeks and some familiar names top the list – Aaron Donald, Fletcher Cox, Akiem Hicks, Damon Harrison.

The lone rookie to crack the top 10 in the grading is Da'Shawn Hand, who continues to play at a very high level early in his professional career.

In fact, Hand is currently the top graded rookie defender by PFF. That's how well the first-year player out of Alabama is playing right now.

Hand's shown strength, speed and a tenacity tailor-made for this multiple-look Detroit defense. He's shown a particular knack for getting after the quarterback. He's had 13 quarterback pressures and two sacks to go along with his 13 stops in the run game.

The Lions have relied heavily on Hand of late. He played in 73 percent of Detroit's defensive snaps in the win in Miami last Sunday.

That's obviously something the Lions will monitor moving forward. Most rookies eventually hit a wall adjusting from an 11- or 12-game college season to the rigors of a 16-game NFL slate.

"It's critical for us to understand that it's a long season in the NFL," head coach Matt Patricia said. "It's a grueling season for these guys, especially the younger players that maybe didn't have a full offseason or a couple offseasons to really train their body for that kind of rigorous toll that they're going to put themselves through.

"We're always a little bit conscious with that with those younger players. It's just something we like to keep an eye on all the way across the board."

But the more Hand keeps playing well the harder it will probably be for the Lions to take him off the field. He's among a number of Lions rookies having a big impact early in their careers.

"He's good, man. He's a good young talent," veteran safety Glover Quin said of Hand. "He's made a lot of big plays for us. He's good. I like him."

BLITZ WORK

Second-year linebacker Jarrad Davis is coming off a terrific performance last week, racking up seven tackles, one tackle for loss, a sack and a quarterback hit against the Dolphins. Davis has been steadily improving throughout the year as he's adjusted to a new scheme and new techniques.

But one thing that's been particularly good about Davis' game all season long has been his ability to rush the passer on the blitz.

Through Week 7, Davis leads all non-defensive linemen with at least 25 pass-rush snaps in pressure percentage (37.1). He has 11 pressures on his 29 pass-rush snaps.

"He does an outstanding job of just kind of seeing – he has great vision, obviously being a linebacker and some of the stuff he does in the run game," Patricia said of Davis' blitzing ability. "His vision is outstanding, and I think when you blitz, or you have those opportunities to rush or pressure rush, it is a vision thing too.

"And then I would say his speed, which I think everybody can see out on the field and his ability to close ground at very rapid pace is something that I think has helped him so far."

Meet this weeks opponents, the Seattle Seahawks.

DOWNHILL RUNNING

The Seahawks are bringing a physical running game with them to Detroit Sunday.

The Seahawks have averaged 157.3 yards rushing per game over their last four contests, and come into the contest sixth in the league in rushing overall.

Seattle has a three-headed monster at running back with Chris Carson, Mike Davis and Rashaad Penny. Include the abilities of quarterback Russell Wilson to make plays with his feet, and Seattle can come at defenses in a variety of ways on the ground.

"Coach (Brian) Schottenheimer and coach (Pete) Carroll just kind of got the downhill run game going," Patricia said. "Brian and I went against each other for a long time when he was at the Jets and I know he likes that downhill kind of pound it run game. I think they're in a situation where they're handing the ball off 30-plus times here recently in order to control the game and I think that's what they want to do. I think they've just settled into a system that fits them really well."

Related Content

Advertising