With more freedom in Lions defense, Hutchinson 'felt like I was really back'


After going quiet for three games, Aidan Hutchinson made himself heard in the Lions' loss to the Cowboys last week. Freed to rush the passer from his natural upright position, the rookie delivered what he called the best game of his young career.

"I felt like I was really back," Hutchinson told Fox 2's Dan Miller.

Hutchinson had been a relative non-factor through the first five games of the season, aside from one half against the Commanders. He also looked miscast in Aaron Glenn's defense, where he was being deployed at times in a three-point stance. After dissecting things over the bye, Glenn and Dan Campbell let Hutchinson get back to basics in Week 7.

The product was a player who looked more like the second overall pick.

"I felt like they gave me some more leeway to stand up and use my instincts more. So man, I was very comfortable. I felt like this was my best game yet just from a technical standpoint in how I was rushing the passer and what I was doing out there," Hutchinson said. "I think from here on out we’re going to be going on a little uphill trajectory because I feel like I’m just now starting to hit my stride."

The proof was in the production. Not only did Hutchinson notch two sacks to bring his season total to 4.5, first in the NFL among rookies, but he beat his blockers one-on-one. Hutchinson's pass rush win rate through his first five games, per Pro Football Focus, was 11.5 percent. It jumped to 25 percent in Week 7.

He also earned a career-high pass rush grade of 81.7, fourth in the NFL last week among edge defenders. He had a pass rush grade before that of 59.3.

Hutchinson said that standing up allows him to attack because he has a better view of the field, as opposed to "when you go down in a three-point (stance) and you lose a lot of vision."

"Being able to stand up and use all my instincts and all the film that I watch, that’s a big thing for me to have," he said. "And them giving me the option to do it now is awesome."

Hutchinson got his first sack against the Cowboys by beating left tackle Tyler Smith with speed around the edge. He got his second by beating right tackle Terence Steele with a spin move to the inside. Both came on third down. Both came from a two-point stance. After relying mostly on bull rushes earlier in the season -- with little to show for it -- Hutchinson said the spin move was a first.

"I’ve never done that in a game, just going in and hitting the spin and getting a sack off of it. That just shows me how high my ceiling is and how much I can get better with my hands and with my pass rush," he said. "And I am getting better, I can see it on the film."

Without a doubt, this was Hutchinson's best game yet. Sacks aside, he posed problems for the offense from start to finish. That's what the Lions drafted him to do, and this was the first time they really let him do it. Makes you wonder what might come next.

"It’s constantly evolving," Hutchinson said of his pass-rushing ability. "I’m not even close to my potential as a player."

Featured Image Photo Credit: Richard Rodriguez / Stringer