Detroit Lions’ Aidan Hutchinson: ‘When I have an opportunity, I bet on myself’

Detroit Free Press

Aidan Hutchinson has been hard-wired to hammer ball carriers since he was little, so it’s hard to blame him for what happened on his first play of his first NFL regular-season game.

When Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts took a shotgun snap, turned to his left and stuck the football in running back Miles Sanders’ stomach, Hutchinson made a beeline for Sanders in the Eagles backfield.

Hurts pulled the ball before Sanders could wrap his arms around it and sprinted around left end, past where Hutchinson should have been “surfing” as the Detroit Lions‘ edge defender, waiting to make a play.

Eight yards later, the Eagles’ were in second-and-2 — and Hutchinson was kicking himself over his missed assignment.

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“He was supposed to surf on that, and he knows that,” Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said Thursday. “The thing is, is, man, when you get that guy going, excited now, he’s ready to go.”

Hutchinson finished with one tackle and had three pressures in his NFL debut last week. He failed to make any impact plays, twice letting Hurts slip out of his grasp for long runs, but he gained valuable perspective on the fine line that comes with balancing playing assignment-sound football and trying to make plays.

“I think it’s just knowing when you got your opportunity you’ve got to make it, but when it’s not yours, you try to force it, sometimes not good things happen,” Hutchinson said. “And I think that’s kind of my mentality is when I have an opportunity, I bet on myself to make it.”

That mentality has served Hutchinson well to this point in his career.

He set a Michigan record with 14 sacks last season, finished runner-up for the Heisman Trophy and was the No. 2 pick of April’s NFL draft.

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The Lions do not want to temper Hutchinson’s playmaking ability; that’s why they drafted him so high. And Glenn said he is confident Hutchinson will learn to fit his game-wrecking ability into the scope of the defense.

“He saw an opening, ‘Man, I’m going to go make a play,’ and that’s who Aidan is, and those are some of the things that we like about him — a lot of things we like about him,” Glenn said. “I think you will see him way more calmer (going forward). You’ll see a guy that’s going to do the things that Aidan has done all through camp, and I would say I’m not worried about that player, not one bit.

“And listen, every player’s going to do that, because listen, sometimes you want players to go make plays, and sometimes you go out of character to do that every now and then. Now, you can’t have that consistently, but that’s a player I’m not worried about.”

Hutchinson said was “happy” with his performance overall, though he did “lose my mind a little bit” over his missed sacks.

As last week’s game went on, he tailored his pass rush plan more to keeping the mobile Hurts in the pocket, and on two occasions was able to hem in Hurst for little or no gain.

This week, Hutchinson should be able to play more loose against the Washington Commanders and pocket quarterback Carson Wentz.

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The Commanders allowed just one sack last week — to the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Travon Walker, the No. 1 pick of April’s draft — and Wentz averaged 3.14 seconds from snap to throw, the second-longest time in the NFL.

Glenn said he has “total confidence” Hutchinson and fellow Lions defensive linemen Charles Harris and Alim McNeill “are going to create havoc and go make plays.” And Hutchinson said he’s looking forward to the opportunity.

“It’s definitely going to be fun, but Carson’s still a mobile guy,” he said. “But definitely Jalen, he was pretty athletic and he was getting out of that pocket a lot so it’ll be good to have a little fresh start and get after it again.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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