Lions Defense Receives 2 Major Breaks Before Key Battle With Jets

Zach Wilson

Getty Zach Wilson warms up before a 2021 game against Carolina.

The Detroit Lions are facing a must-win game on the road against the New York Jets, and the pressure will be on their beleaguered defense to step up.

While Detroit’s defense has statistically struggled this season, they’ve rounded into form lately and are catching a pair of huge breaks in Week 15 with news of a return from defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and a sudden quarterback change from the Jets.

On Friday, December 16, the Lions revealed that Hutchinson, who had missed practice on Thursday with an illness, was returning to the field. Dan Campbell updated reporters on the change in Hutchinson’s status, and Tim Twentyman of admitted it was good news for Sunday.

“Aidan Hutchinson missed practice yesterday due to illness but Campbell said he’ll be back in the building today. Good news for Sunday,” Twentyman tweeted.

The good news didn’t stop there. As ESPN’s Adam Schefter first revealed, his sources said Zach Wilson, not Mike White, would be starting at quarterback for the team. White was not cleared by the team’s medical staff in time. That represented a shift for the Jets, who had put Wilson on the bench in favor of White in late November.

“Sources: Jets doctors will not clear QB Mike White for contact before Sunday’s game vs. Detroit and thus Zach Wilson will start against the Lions. White wanted to play and has practiced but Jets doctors are not signing off. Thus, Wilson is back as the Jets’ starting QB,” Schefter tweeted.

In New York’s games with White, the quarterback had produced 952 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Even though he was 1-2 as a starter, the Jets were game in those matchups thanks to White. Wilson, on the other hand, was turnover prone with five interceptions in spite of a 5-2 record as a starter.

With Hutchinson looking good to go and and a quarterback who had been benched pressed into duty, it could now be advantage Lions in a big way for Sunday’s major game.

Wilson Struggling as Jets’ Starter

The Jets may have racked up the wins with Wilson, the former second-overall pick, given his 5-2 record and wins over Buffalo, Green Bay and Miami. Still, the quarterback played erratically at times and may not have taken New York’s offense to the next level.

Wilson has only thrown for 1,279 yards and four touchdowns this year. Arguably, the Jets were able to win in his starts mostly thanks to the team’s stout defense, which ranks top-three in the NFL. Wilson himself has not contributed tons of positive highlights, and has been known more for some low-lights with fans.

Over the last six games, the Lions have forced 10 takeaways on defense to lead their 5-1 run. Many have been game-changing in nature, such as in Week 14 when they forced a sack-fumble of Dalvin Cook near the goal line.

Wilson can ill-afford the big mistake he’s been prone to, and right now, the Lions have been able to force such mistakes on the field. That could prove trouble for New York.

Hutchinson Will Pace Detroit’s Defensive Attack

In terms of players who are vital for this matchup, there may be nobody more important to Detroit than Hutchinson on the defensive side of the ball.

Detroit has struggled in the past to rush the passer, but this season, they’ve seen their fortunes turn in a big way thanks to the former second-overall pick from Michigan, who has put up seven sacks and two interceptions as a rookie.

Hutchinson has made life miserable on opposing quarterbacks, no matter their status in the game. He collected his first two sacks on veteran Carson Wentz in Week 2, while he intercepted young Giants quarterback Daniel Jones as well as Packers’ veteran star Aaron Rodgers.

With Wilson in the mix instead of White, Hutchinson should have a chance to feast on a quarterback that has struggled with sacks and turnovers this year. As a whole, Wilson has been sacked 16 times in 2022. That’s an awful total which may point to a big day from Detroit’s rookie.

Add it up, and it seems as if things have turned in a positive favor for Detroit’s defense in this game. That’s an important development given how close this contest could be.

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