Allen Park — In Aidan Hutchinson’s first 20 games at the University of Michigan, he recorded just 3.5 sacks. The switch flipped his senior season, when he broke the school’s single-season record, dropping the quarterback behind the line on 14 occasions.
A lot went into that, including increased opportunity and experience, but one obvious adjustment came in the form of his technique. After rushing from a three-point stance the better part of three seasons, former Wolverines defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald switched Hutchinson to a two-point stance, coinciding with the production explosion.
“I’ve absolutely loved being able to play in a two-point stance this year,” Hutchinson said in an interview with The Draft Network last December. “It allows me to play with a terrific amount of vision before the play even unfolds. It’s helped me with my get-off. I’m able to load my front foot and explode out of my stance. I’ve really grown to love being in a two-point stance. I know it will ultimately depend on where I end up in the draft and whatnot. I’m comfortable either way, both in a three-point and two-point, but I’ve really grown to love that two-point stance this year.”
As you know, Hutchinson landed in Detroit, and despite the Lions switching to more of an attacking style with its defensive front, they’ve had the rookie back in a three-point stance. So, following some inconsistent performances to begin his rookie season, fans who followed him at Michigan have been asking why the Lions aren’t using Hutchinson the same way Macdonald did.
With Detroit’s defense floundering in all facets, and pondering changes across the board, Lions coach Dan Campbell was asked if switching up Hutchinson’s stance was a possibility.
“Yeah, some of that could be with thinking about moving him a little bit potentially,” Campbell said. “…If he’s going to be down over the tight end, it’s hard to be in a two (-point stance), just to play the run — not that you can’t.
“…We’re all open to whatever is most comfortable,” Campbell continued. “If he feels like he can get his job done up, listen, no problem. So, I don’t feel like that’s an issue with him or that’s going to change anything, but we kind of take it all into account. If it’s something he feels like he’s more comfortable at, we’ll go with that.”
Within that answer, Campbell explains why the Lions have been doing it they way they have with Hutchinson. His body type is better suited to line up against the strong side of the opponent’s formation, compared to Charles Harris, who is smaller, lighter and more reliant on speed to be effective.
Moving Hutchinson to the weak side of the formation, opposite of the tight end, would displace Harris, who led the team in sacks and quarterback pressures last season. Alternatively, the team could stand both up, but it’s clear Campbell is less comfortable having Hutchinson conceding the strength and leverage a three-point stance is designed to create when needing to play stout against the run.
The Lions hope to get injured kicker Austin Seibert (groin) back on the practice field this week, but regardless, the team intends to scour the market to upgrade his backup after Dominik Eberle came up from the practice squad on Sunday and missed two extra points and sent a kickoff out of bounds.
“Yeah, we’re bringing in some guys to kick, just to get a look at them,” Campbell said about some tryouts scheduled for later in the week.
Seibert, who was claimed off waivers ahead of the 2021 season, won the job in training camp after beating out Riley Patterson. Seibert has made 13 of his 17 field goal attempts in a Lions uniform, but has had some struggles from distance, most recently missing a 54-yarder in the closing minutes of the team’s Week 3 loss to Minnesota.
Patterson was claimed off waivers by the Jacksonville Jaguars after he was released by the Lions and he has gone 7-of-8 on his field-goal attempts, making a long of 52 and missing a 37-yarder.