Aidan Hutchinson’s new role with Detroit Lions; Jerry Jacobs, Josh Paschal debuts on tap

Detroit Free Press

Determined to jumpstart their sputtering pass rush, the Detroit Lions are looking for ways to create more favorable matchups for first-round pick Aidan Hutchinson.

Linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard acknowledged Friday he has worked some with Hutchinson during position drills this week, part of changes Lions coach Dan Campbell promised were coming to his team’s league-worst defense.

Hutchinson has played primarily as the Lions’ closed defensive end this season, but could see time on the open side with Charles Harris out for a second straight game with a groin injury. Harris worked some at linebacker before suffering his injury in practice.

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“We’re trying to put that player in position to have a bigger impact on the game,” Sheppard said. “Now when we’re doing that, you can’t just go off the rails and go outside schematically of what we’ve done, but we are doing things (to help him and the defense).”

Hutchinson, the No. 2 overall pick in April’s draft, leads the Lions with three sacks, all of which came in a Week 2 win over the Washington Commanders. He has faced frequent double-teams as the Lions’ top edge rusher and when he slides inside on pass downs.

The Lions have not recorded a sack in their past two games.

“(That’s) not good,” defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said Thursday. “But here’s what I will say, ’cause everyone is so into the sacks. I’m into pressures to be honest with you, more, because of the fact when you pressure they end up bringing takeaways, right? That’s what comes.”

Glenn said he talked with Hutchinson this week about the importance of pressuring opposing quarterbacks, and of not getting caught up in sack numbers.

“I understand from the outside that you’re going to hear about that, especially as a young player because I know Aidan’s the guy that everyone talks about,” Glenn said. “And I’m trying to get him to calm himself down, so he won’t get out of character. Man, just continue to work. We’re going to continue to do what we have to do to put you in positions, so you just close yourself from everything, man, and go play. And I think he’s going to do a good job this week.”

Campbell downplayed how much Hutchinson would benefit from playing more out of a two-point stance, as he did at Michigan, earlier this month. Hutchinson said playing on the open side would benefit him as a pass rusher.

“This is no different than last year,” Sheppard said, referring to when he worked with Lions edge defenders and defensive line coach Todd Wash spent much of his time with the interior line. “Myself and Coach Wash, we’re one voice and I mean that. I don’t mind if he coaches my players, I coach his players ’cause we just did it for a whole year together. So now Hutch is bouncing back and forth a little, but just trying to see if we can put him in position to make a bigger impact on the game and what he does best.”

Jacobs, Paschal to return

Cornerback Jerry Jacobs and defensive lineman Josh Paschal are expected to make their season debuts Sunday after missing the first five games while rehabbing from surgeries.

Jacobs, who tore the ACL in his left knee last December, said he shared news of his return in an emotional phone call Thursday with his sister, Kimberly, who helped raise him.

“She’s been there my whole life, so to see me come back from that injury and to see me happy, cause I’ve been in a mood change and all that just ’cause my ACL,” Jacobs said. “She seen me sad, so to see me happy, she was happy for me.”

Jacobs started nine games as an undrafted rookie last season, but likely will be eased back into the playing rotation. He is nine months removed from surgery, and Amani Oruwariye could rejoin the starting lineup at cornerback after a one-game benching.

“I told coach Campbell I’ll do whatever I can to help the team out in any way,” Jacobs said. “He gave me a role, and I’m going to protect that role for right now, help out.”

Paschal, the Lions’ second-round pick out of Kentucky, will make his NFL debut Sunday after undergoing offseason hernia surgery. He said he was “getting pregame feels for practice” this week knowing he would be in the gameday rotation on the defensive line.

“It’s a lot of emotions,” he said. “I’m trying to keep it calm because I don’t want to blow my whistle too early, but I’m going to go out there excited. I was excited at the beginning of the week, a little too excited so I’m trying to calm down before the game time and then hype it back up.”

The Lions currently have 52 players on their roster and will have to make one move Saturday before activating Jacobs and Paschal off the physically unable to perform list.

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

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