When the Detroit Lions line up to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars this weekend, much of the focus of the matchup will be on Travon Walker and Aidan Hutchinson on the defensive side of the ball.
Last year, the duo went first and second in the 2022 NFL draft. Both teams thought they were getting elite players, and that might certainly be true looking below the surface given what the pair has done in the league.
Detroit coach Dan Campbell is certainly a believer in the fact that both teams ended up with solid players that they can depend on for the future. Speaking to the media on Wednesday, November 30, Campbell was asked what he thought of Walker, both now and leading into the draft.
“Really like Travon, liked him a lot. We were really high on him. I think he’s what we thought he would be. He’s very versatile, he plays their outside linebacker in base and then plays their rush end. He can play both sides. He’s got length. He’s got speed. He’s got power. Every week he gets a little bit better,” Campbell said.
In terms of his player, though, Campbell still loves what he sees, even if he can still appreciate Walker from afar.
“I think they got a good pickup over there and I think we got a good pickup,” Campbell said with a grin.
All things considered, the duel has been pretty even thus far, but this weekend will give folks a new reason to be interested.
How Walker, Hutchinson Compare Statistically
So far this season, it’s not a stretch to say the Lions have gotten a bit more from Hutchinson on the field. The pass rusher has looked like one of the best rookies in football, and has been a statistical machine.
Thus far this season, Hutchinson has managed to be a beast through Week 12. He has a total of 5.5 sacks, 31 tackles and two interceptions. He’s collapsed the pocket in a big way for the Lions, as evidence by the fact that he leads the league in terms of rookie pressures and sacks.
Walker has been decent as well, though just a notch below Hutchinson in terms of overall impact. His 2.5 sacks, 37 tackles and one interception sit a notch below Hutchinson’s output thus far on the field.
While this game will not be the end-all, be-all in terms of judging both players and picks, it will certainly be fascinating to see who gets the upper hand in this battle.
Area Revealed for Hutchinson, Walker Improvement
As good as the duo has been thus far, there are still ways for them to be better. The matchup was further analyzed by ESPN reporters Eric Woodyard and Michael DiRocco ahead of this weekend’s matchup, and a few areas of improvement were presented.
For Hutchinson, Woodyard admitted that pass rushing consistency is a huge key moving forward.
“His pass rush is an area that could still improve, however. Hutchinson has a pass rush win rate of 9% through 11 games, according to ESPN Analytics, and that ranks fifth among rookies. Refining the fundamentals, such as his using his hands better and setting up blockers, will help boost that rate over time,” Woodyard wrote.
In terms of Walker, almost the exact same thing is true according to DiRocco.
“Walker is continually working on becoming a more consistent rusher. He’s getting pressure on only 7.4% of his rushes on a team-high 283 pass-rush snaps, according to NextGen Stats,” he wrote.
Clearly, while both have been good already, things could get even better in the future in terms of pocket pressure.
What will the first head-to-head matchup look like? That remains to be seen, but it will surely be interesting to see how the two compare and how they continue to grow as the season goes on.
Obviously, Campbell will be looking forward to seeing that play out as well.