When the Kansas City Chiefs take the field on Thursday night for the NFL’s regular season opener, the defending Super Bowl champions will be facing a very talented Detroit Lions team. But there’s one player, in particular, that Chiefs superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes believes KC will need to keep tabs on at all times:
Lions second-year edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson.
“Yeah, I think he was one of the guys that I was talking about. You could see at the beginning of the year [in 2022] he played hard; he was trying to figure everything out but as the season went on, he really started coming into his own,” Mahomes said during his September 3 press conference of Hutchinson.
“He’s a great football player, there’s a reason he was drafted where he was drafted and a reason he had success in college where he did,” Mahomes continued. “He’s a great football player, has the physical talent but also a smart football player. He had three interceptions last year so you know he can do a little bit of everything. We’ll have to account for him every snap because you know he’s a game-changer type of player and we can’t let him affect the game on some of those big moments.”
What to Know About Aidan Hutchinson
Aidan Hutchinson, the 2nd overall pick in 2022, has been everything as advertised since entering the NFL. After a sack-less NFL debut in Week 1 of the 2022 season, Hutchinson followed that game up with a 3-sack effort in Week 2 against the Washington Commanders. He went on to record 9.5 total sacks in 17 regular season games played for the Lions, and also had 9 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, and 2 fumble recoveries., according to Pro Football Reference.
Had it not been for an elite season from New York Jets rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner, Hutchinson likely would have been named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2022.
Hutchinson, who can play anywhere along the defensive line, will be tasked in the season opener with facing a Kansas City offensive line that gave up the third-fewest sacks in the league in 2022 (26) and projects to be improved this season.
The additions of offensive tackles Jawaan Taylor and Donovan Smith provide arguably the most stability on the offensive line that Mahomes has had in his career. Pair that with the great pocket awareness of Mahomes, and the Chiefs have the firepower up front to keep Hutchinson contained in the season opener.
Yet, early-season hiccups for Kansas City’s offense could give Hutchinson and the rest of the Lions’ front seven enough opportunities to make impact plays Thursday night.
The battle in the trenches in the Chiefs-Lions game will be one of the key matchups to watch in Week 1.
Patrick Mahomes Discussing Lions Defense
During the same September 1 press conference, Patrick Mahomes also shared his thoughts on Detroit’s defense as an entire unit.
“The obvious thing is they play hard, they play hard the entire game, no matter if it’s a good play, bad play, they’re going to come back that next snap and play extremely hard. Then they do a lot of great stuff scheme-wise,” Mahomes said. “They had a lot of young guys playing last year. You could see throughout the season how they grew and got better and better.
“Then they added talent, they added (CB Cam) Sutton from the Steelers, they add (DB C.J.) Gardner-Johnson, obviously I’ve played him a couple games, (a) great football player. They’ve added talent with young guys and veterans. They play hard, and they got better even last year. We know it’s going to be a heck of a football game, and if we don’t play our best football, we aren’t going to go out there and win.”