In some ways, Aidan Hutchinson mirrors Detroit's defense: a lot of pressures, not a lot of sacks.
Despite ranking second in the NFL in quarterback hurries per Pro Football Reference, the Lions are tied for 21st in sacks (21). Aside from binges against the Falcons, Packers and Raiders, they have three sacks in six games. And despite having racked up 18 hurries himself -- more than Myles Garrett, Danielle Hunter and T.J Watt, the league's top three players in sacks, combined -- Hutchinson is tied for 42nd in sacks.
His assessment of the Lions' pass rush through nine games?
"I think we just gotta finish it, man. That's all," Hutchinson said. "I can go on and ramble on. But I feel like at the end of the day, that's the message."
Hutchinson admitted he's fighting some frustration. "No doubt," he said. He already has more QB pressures (32) than he had all of last season and more than all of the NFL's top 10 players in sacks. But he hasn't had a sack in four games. He's been stuck on 4.5 for over a month.
"It's a mental game more than anything, I feel like, right now," he said. "It'll pass, and soon I know things are going to be flowing."
Without another legitimate threat on the edge of the Lions' defensive line, Hutchinson has seen tons of double teams this season. Even triple teams, at times. He said it's "definitely an added aspect of the game" and "one that I'm learning and one that poses different challenges every week."
By signing veteran defensive end Bruce Irvin this week, the Lions hope to take some of the, well, pressure off of Hutchinson. It's no guarantee: Irvin is 36 years old, hasn't played since last season and will need time to get into game shape. But he does have 55.5 career sacks to his name, and the savvy that comes from playing 11 NFL seasons.
"Man, he's explosive," Hutchinson said. "He's out there getting back into things, so I'm looking forward to seeing next week or whenever he's back. ... We were just joking about how when he got drafted, I was in 7th grade. It's crazy, some of the ages in this league. But he's a good guy and I'm looking forward to talking more with him."
Back then, Hutchinson's favorite defensive player was J.J. Watt. He reached out to Watt this summer for some advice ahead of his second season; Watt went from 5.5 sacks as a rookie to 20.5 and Defensive Player of the Year in year two. That's the kind of jump Hutchinson was eyeing, one that was in his sights a month ago when he was on pace to tie the Lions' single-season franchise record for sacks.
He's slowed down since, at least in the production department. But he has all the belief that he'll find his stride again soon.
This week, the focus is on slowing down Justin Fields and the Bears' fifth-ranked rushing attack. Fields torched the Lions on the ground last season for 249 yards in two games.
"Justin is a huge factor in that run game that definitely changes the way that we have to prepare for them," Hutchinson said. "Those quarterback runs are deadly and he's shown how deadly he is when he's got the ball in his hands."