Aidan Hutchinson ‘ready’ for season; Detroit Lions’ focus shifts to position battles

Detroit Free Press

WESTFIELD, Ind. — Aidan Hutchinson stood just outside a media tent after the Detroit Lions‘ second joint practice with the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday, talking with Colts defensive end Kwity Paye as a “Hard Knocks” camera crew held a boom mic overhead.

Hutchinson and Paye, teammates at Michigan in 2018-20, were having their second long conversation in as many days — among the first they’ve had since the Colts took Paye with the 21st pick in the 2021 NFL draft.

“I would have liked to talk to Kwity a little more, but I found out yesterday that I had actually blocked his number,” Hutchinson said. “You look at our messages, I had about five messages to him, all unanswered. I was like, ‘Dude, Kwity’s ghosting me right now.'”

Paye said he was texting Hutchinson back “paragraphs,” but getting no response.

“I found out that I blocked him (on accident),” Hutchinson said. “We actually haven’t talked in a while. I thought he was ghosting me, but we have figured out the source.”

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Paye and Hutchinson spent a few minutes Thursday trading pass rush moves, and Paye gave his ex-teammate advice on how to navigate his rookie season in the NFL.

The two should have more time to catch up Saturday, when they could be two of dozens of key players who will sit out the Lions’ second preseason game against the Colts.

Colts coach Frank Reich said “most of” his starters will not play after getting more than 40 reps against Lions starters in practice this week, and Lions coach Dan Campbell will take a similar approach to his team’s penultimate tune-up for the regular season.

“There’ll be a number of these guys that will not play in this game, a number of our starters, because they’re getting kind of the bulk of the reps (in practice),” Campbell said. “That’s why you kind of like the structure of it. You get two really good days of work and now you don’t really feel like you need to go to the game with them.”

Last year, the Lions played rookie first-round pick Penei Sewell at least two series in all three preseason games, so Hutchinson could make a ceremonial appearance Saturday.

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But if the Lions decide to hold their top pass rusher out the rest of the preseason, Hutchinson said he will be ready for the Sept. 11 opener against the Philadelphia Eagles.

“I’m ready to go,” he said. “I just want to get there. All the preseason, all the camp stuff, it’s good getting better but, man, you just want to get to that Week 1 and get into the season and get rolling. You’re getting a little antsy, so that’s how I feel.”

With all but a few starting spots settled on both sides of the ball — the No. 2 cornerback, slot corner and starting linebacker job next to Alex Anzalone appear to be the only ones still up for grabs — the Lions can use Saturday’s game against the Colts and next week’s exhibition finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers to firm up their depth chart.

One of the most important position battles still undecided is backup quarterback, where Tim Boyle and David Blough are competing for potentially one spot behind Jared Goff.

Boyle relieved Goff in last week’s preseason loss to the Atlanta Falcons and played about a half. He completed 9 of 16 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown, but threw one interception and was erratic with several other throws.

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Blough was 18 of 28 for 141 yards, but he, too, had a costly mistake — fumbling a shotgun snap with 2 minutes to play when the Lions had a chance to close out a victory. The Falcons scored the go-ahead touchdown five plays later.

Campbell indicated Blough will start at quarterback Saturday, though the Lions are likely to drag that position battle into next week.

NFL teams have until 4 p.m. Tuesday to cut their 85-man rosters to 80 players, when they can also begin placing players on the physically unable to perform and non-football injury lists to start the regular season.

Rosters must be trimmed to 53 players by Aug. 30.

“(Both quarterbacks) did some really good things and then they had a couple of — each of them really had one costly play which, I mean at that position, unfortunately, those are the ones that’ll kill you,” Campbell said. “But we see them progressing. They’re going to get better. Let’s see if they learn from it, which I think they will. And Blough will take the twos for now, and then we let them just keep competing.”

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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