Why a Top Rookie Still Figures as Lions’ Major Training Camp Question

Dan Campbell

Getty Dan Campbell reacts on the field coaching the Lions in 2021 against Philadelphia.

Any NFL team that manages a 3-13-1 finish to the season has plenty of issues to address, and the Detroit Lions are far from a finished product even amid the mild hype they’re generating.

Ahead of a new season, there are plenty of questions that have arisen before the team hits the field for the bulk of their training camp work. On the outside, Aidan Hutchinson would not seem to be a big question, but the defense he plays in could represent a significant issue.

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Detroit needs to find a way to get major production from their second-overall pick right away in order to help turn the tide, and that’s something in which NBC Sports analyst Peter King has already been keen to point out. It’s why Hutchinson remains a question for the team.

In a Football Morning in America piece looking at camp questions for every team, King chose to look at the team’s defense and Hutchinson’s fit within it as a major issue. King wondered if Hutchinson himself might be able to transform the team’s defense, which he deemed “listless.”

“The Lions, after finishing 30th in the league in sacks last year, need to work in camp on making sure Hutchinson hits the ground running in September. There are no good alternatives for coordinator Aaron Glenn’s defense, so grooming Hutchinson is job one on a team that can’t rely on the offense to put up 25 points a game,” King wrote specifically.

Given the way the Lions finished last season and how they could trend, it wouldn’t be a shock at all to hear about a desire to transform the defense. The Lions did play with energy in spite of their dismal statistics, so it might not take much at all to help nudge things over the top. That’s where Hutchinson could come in and help quickly.


What a Good Rookie Season Looks Like for Hutchinson

Is it crazy to think that Hutchinson may be good enough to change everything on his own for Detroit? Many might believe that, but early on, the lineman has hit the ground running enough to prove that the 2022 season could be a special one right off the bat. At the conclusion of offseason workouts, Hutchinson admitted he has a grasp of the team’s defense already. That’s notable for the Lions, who may not have to work hard to get him up to speed come training camp. Hutchinson brought the energy every snap for Michigan in 2021:


Aidan Hutchinson | 2021 HighlightsSecond Channel: youtube.com/channel/UC8n8qjtOWK1j3tFiZAeeZ4Q Instagram: instagram.com/justin_stewart_5/ Twitter: twitter.com/j_stew55 ——————————————————————————————————- *I do not own any of the footage or audio in this, it belongs to the NCAA and the copyright owner of the song. I make the videos for entertainment purposes only* #AidanHutchinson #NFLDraft #CollegeFootabll #Michigan #Highlights #NCAA2022-01-01T17:00:04Z

In terms of what a good first year would look like for Hutchinson in the NFL, 10 sacks and 5 forced fumbles could be a good base-line for the Lions. The sack number itself would have qualified Hutchinson for the team lead in 2021, and it might seem like a low total given his talent. Still, it’s reasonable to expect there to be a bit of a learning curve to start. As Hutchinson gets comfortable, however, he could be expected to turn a corner later on and show his adjustment.


Lions Defense Must Focus on Sacks, Takeaways

King is spot on to proclaim the team needs to find a way to get after the quarterback. Last season, the Lions collected only 30 sacks, which was a staggeringly low total. Additionally, the team had only 26 total takeaways to their credit between interceptions and fumble recoveries. With this in mind, finding a way to create more havoc in the backfield and in the secondary was a major focus of the offseason. Hutchinson himself will play a significant role in the team’s ability to get this done, which is why the Lions picked him up in this April. It’s also why most eyes are on him to start camp.

Defensively, Detroit needs to be one of the most improved teams in the league. Hutchinson figures to play a role in helping that, and King seems to think his adjustment to the league in camp might be the biggest variable to monitor.

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