Lions notes: Hutchinson hits the right notes; dedication paying off for Goff

Detroit News

Allen Park — The Detroit Lions forced Aidan Hutchinson out of his self-imposed shell this week.

In his first couple months with the franchise, Hutchinson has been all business, largely keeping his head down and his mouth shut. That’s exactly what he said he would do the night he was drafted by the franchise No. 2 overall.

“Obviously, I’m going to stay quiet,” Hutchinson said in April. “I’m a rookie. I’m young. I’m just going to go put my nose to the grindstone and just get after it and not say a whole bunch, but just earn the respect of others before I even think to step up (as a leader).”

But as part of a playful hazing ritual for the first-year players under coach Dan Campbell, Hutchinson was made to get in front of the team and sing a song. His choice: Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”

After a rocky start, which drew some jeers from his teammates, Hutchinson let loose, impressing those in the room.

“The man was money,” offensive tackle Penei Sewell said Monday. “He scratched up a little bit at the beginning, but I get it. Jitters. But he killed it. That man killed it.”

Even better, cameras were reportedly rolling and footage is expected to eventually be released, either through the team’s official website or as part of the Lions upcoming appearance on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.”

As for that respect Hutchinson is trying to earn, Campbell said the rookie is well on his way and his commitment to channeling the King of Pop isn’t hurting.

“I will say this — it was outstanding,” Campbell said. “He took a big step in respect of his teammates because it was a hell of a performance.”

As for Hutchinson’s otherwise workmanlike approach, Campbell said it’s exactly what you hope to see from a young player.

“He’s very self-aware,” Campbell said. “He is. He’s not coming in here being loud and talking a bunch of trash or doing anything like that. He knows he’s got to earn his right. Just because he was a first-round pick doesn’t mean that he’s automatically got the respect of everybody in there. He’s got to earn that and he understands it.

“So, he goes out there and he just works his (butt) off in practice. And then in meetings, he keeps his mouth shut until he’s asked a question. That’s exactly what you want in a rookie. He’s going to earn their respect.”

Dedication paying dividends

Last year was undoubtedly rough for Lions quarterback Jared Goff. The California native was blindsided when the team that drafted him, the Los Angeles Rams, shipped him to Detroit a year after he signed a contract extension.

And despite doing his best to draw motivation and put a positive spin on the situation, he had to slog through his most difficult season since his rookie year, working with a lack of offensive talent, dealing with multiple injuries to Detroit’s best players and having poor chemistry with former offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn. Combined, it added up to a three-win campaign.

But emerging from the fog of that chaos and disappointment, Goff has come out the other side more determined than ever to recapture the form that led him being named to back-to-back Pro Bowls.

This offseason, Goff has worked hand in hand with new coordinator Ben Johnson in crafting the playbook, and that dedication is translating to the practice field, according to teammate Taylor Decker.

“Starting in OTAs, I remember I came in and talked to (Johnson) and he’s like, ‘Jared has been here already getting the playbook down, adjusting the playbook because he wants to know every single thing we have going on in the offense,'” Decker said. “Out here, the first week, four or five days of practice, you see it.

“He comes up to the line and if we have an alert play, he just alerts them right away because he sees it. That allows us to play faster, it allows us to get up to the line of scrimmage. He’s helping the entire offense just by taking a ton of ownership of it. And he’s out there throwing dimes. We know he can throw those dimes. We get excited (because) we know if we give him time, a big play is going to be made.”

Not ruling out adding another QB

The two men competing to be Goff’s backup, Tim Boyle and David Blough, haven’t had the same level of consistency during camp. And while Campbell said he continues to have faith one will emerge as the solution, the coach left the door open for finding an alternative option during a Monday interview with 97.1 The Ticket.

“Here’s the thing, by the end of this camp, we should know,” Campbell said. “We should know, are we OK going into the season with these guys, or do we maybe need to make a move or something? But that’s what this camp is about, and you know, wanted to bring Tim back and (Blough) and give them a chance to compete out here. So we’ve got a full camp left, and I’m confident that one of these guys will step to the forefront.”

Harris in play to start Week 1

Another competition that figures to go deep into August is the starting cornerback spot opposite Amani Oruwariye, where former first-round pick Jeff Okudah is rotating with converted safety Will Harris.

Harris, who played some cornerback late last season out of necessity, has made the permanent switch this offseason. He has been splitting first-team reps with Okudah, who recently returned from a torn Achilles suffered in last year’s season opener.

“We think Will Harris is very much in play out there and he’s getting a chance,” Campbell said. “He’s going to get a chance to compete for that, he and Okudah both. It’s may the best man win, let them go after it, and then see what we’ve got. We’ll figure that out once we get to the season. You’d rather not be in a timeshare type thing, but if they’re both guys we need to have out there, we’ll find a way to get them out there and use them.”

Rookie intrigue

Monday marked the team’s first padded practice of the offseason. Beyond the added intensity that change brings, it’s the first window for the coaching staff to get a true evaluation on the personnel and the schemes.

At the forefront of those evaluations is the roster’s first-year players. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and Campbell mentioned the same two, with sixth-round picks Malcolm Rodriguez and James Houston topping their respective lists.

“Well, I want to see all the guys in pads, but just to (highlight) certain guys, Rodriguez is one of them,” Glenn said. “Because you just watch him in college, you see how physical he is in college, man, you want to see if that’s going to transition over to our game in the NFL.”

Bolstering backfield

The Lions signed veteran running back Justin Jackson after moving undrafted rookie receiver Corey Sutton to the reserved/retired list.

Jackson, a seventh-round pick out of Northwestern in 2018, spent his first four seasons with the Chargers. Backing up productive teammates Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler, the 6-foot, 200-pound Jackson has accumulated just 271 touches through his career, but has averaged an impressive 5 yards on his 206 carries, while adding 65 receptions for another 508 yards.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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