Detroit Lions rookie defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson is ready for his NFL debut Sunday at Ford Field.
"I'm ready to unleash the beast," Hutchinson said with a smile Thursday. "I think we've got a really good opponent in front of us. One that we watched the tape from last year and it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I think we're all excited."
Even head coach Dan Campbell said earlier this week that one thing he was especially looking forward to Week 1 was finally getting to unleash Hutchinson, the No. 2 overall pick by the Lions out of Michigan in this year's draft.
Hutchinson is expected to play a crucial role in what the Lions hope is a much improved defense. He's been everything the Lions hoped he'd be, and even a little bit more. Hutchinson has an advanced toolbox of pass-rush moves and a motor that never quits, which he pairs with a long frame, toughness and speed off the edge. He's played up and down the Lions defensive front, and he'll have a good first test against the Eagles.
View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Wednesday, September 7, 2022.
Philadelphia has one of the better offensive lines in football, and Hutchinson said he's had to study all five Eagles starters because he could line up across all five at some point in the game.
There's expected to be a lot of Hutchinson jerseys at a sold out Ford Field Sunday. The Lions are expecting Hutchinson to be a foundational player for years to come. That journey begins now.
"This is it right here," Hutchinson said. "It's going to be awesome. Man, it's going to be a great atmosphere. I can't wait."
Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts led all quarterbacks last year with 784 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. He had 71 of those yards in a Week 8 matchup against the Lions at Ford Field on just seven carries.
For pass rushers and defensive game planners, there's a fine line when facing mobile quarterbacks about being too aggressive in their rush.
Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn is an aggressive play caller, and he doesn't plan to waiver from that Sunday against Hurts and the Eagles.
"Obviously rush lanes are important, but for the most part, man, I'm not going to sit back and tell Charles (Harris), and tell Aidan (Hutchinson) to sit back and be on their toes," Glenn said. "Man, we're going after this guy and then, we have to have other guys to play off of them also.
"So, do we want to be reckless? No, we don't want to do that. The one thing that we have to do is be disciplined, be assigned and sound, and play hard, physical football. And we'll let everything else take care of itself."
And they also have to rely on their one-on-one tackling situations to get Hurts to the ground in the open field when he does break contain.
WIDE RECEIVER ROLES
One area where the Lions are expected to be improved this season is at wide receiver. DJ Chark came over in free agency, Josh Reynolds has had an entire offseason and training camp in the offense, Amon-Ra St. Brown looks even better in Year 2, and that doesn't even include No. 12 overall pick Jameson Williams, who is starting the year on Reserve/NFI. Kalif Raymond and Quintez Cephus also bring a nice skillset to the receiver room.
"They all do have roles, and we're kind of defining those as we go," offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said of the receiver room. "I think the challenge is going to be making sure we can spread the ball around enough and that's a good challenge to have, I think, so no, that's a good group, and in terms of all five playing, I don't know if all five will play, but I know they'll be ready to play if we need them."
Quarterback Jared Goff and the receivers have looked good all through camp, and this offense as a whole is expected to be a strength. They'll have a good test Sunday against former Lion Darius Slay and a talented Eagles secondary.