Winning on the road in the NFL isn’t easy. Any person who has been around the game for any amount of time will tell you that. It doesn’t matter who the team is, or what the situation is—you don’t take road wins for granted. So for a young team like the Detroit Lions to win their second away game in as many weeks, it is understandable when people get excited about the team now winning three in a row. After a narrow victory in Week 10 against the Chicago Bears, the Lions handled business in all three phases on their way to a complete victory against the New York Giants.
As usual, some of the Lions’ rookies had a major impact on the outcome of the game. Let’s take a closer look at how each member of the Lions’ 2022 draft class fared in the Week 11 victory against the Giants.
Aidan Hutchinson, DL
65 snaps (86% of total defensive snaps) — 2 special teams snap (8%)
PFF defensive grade: 85.6
Coming out of the University of Michigan, Hutchinson was already billed as an intelligent player who possessed strong instincts. With that said, I am still a bit blown away at just how quickly those instincts have translated to the NFL. People that closely follow the Lions have seen Hutchinson come along quickly, especially when you consider he is still only ten games into his professional career. However, it seems other teams are beginning to take notice as well.
Want to know one of the easiest ways to make a secondary look better? Generate a pass rush with four or less players. Here we have a third and long for the Giants with quarterback Daniel Jones in the shotgun. Hutchinson is lined up on the outside shoulder of Giants’ right tackle Tyre Phillips. Knowing the rookie pass-rusher has been on a bit of a run as of late, New York elects to slide protection his way—with right guard Mark Glowinski initially engaging with defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs, before shifting his attention to Hutchinson. All of this movement on that side of the line leaves left guard Shane Lemieux one-on-one with Lions’ second-year defensive tackle Alim McNeill. The result is a quick win for McNeill, and a punt on the opening series for the Giants. He is still a work in progress, but the fact that teams are already paying extra attention to Hutchinson this early in his career is a great sign for this defense moving forward.
Lions’ defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn doesn’t drop him into coverage a ton, but when he does, Hutchinson never looks lost. In fact, despite being a 6-foot-7, 260 pound defensive end, he moves pretty well back there. Because he is already a good pass rusher that opposing offenses have to account for, most quarterbacks aren’t going to account for him getting into a drop once they are working through their progressions. Jones wants to connect with receiver Darius Slayton over the middle of the field, but Hutchinson is lurking in the passing lane, and plucks the ball out of the air for his second interception on the season.
Against the run, he made a handful of plays, and was an integral part of the Lions’ front that held running back Saquon Barkley to only 22 yards on 15 carries.
There was way more good than bad, but like last week, Hutchinson gets caught peeking on the fake to Barkley, and lets Jones get outside of him. It isn’t the easiest thing to defend, but this really needs to get cleaned up. Especially with the Buffalo Bills and quarterback Josh Allen coming into town on Thanksgiving day.
Here we have an example of what happens when teams try to block a player like Hutchinson with a receiver like Kenny Golladay. It typically doesn’t go in the offense’s favor. Also, probably not a lot of fun for the receivers!
Call me crazy, but I firmly believe in karma—and this belief extends into football. With Hutchinson, who does everything right in terms of effort and execution, sometimes the football gods throw you a bone.
Hutchinson finished his day with three tackles, three quarterback hurries, a fumble recovery, and the interception. Another really impressive showing from the second overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft.
Jameson Williams, WR
DNP: On reserve/NFI while recovering from a knee injury suffered in January 2022
Josh Paschal, DL
DNP: Recovering from knee injury suffered in Lions’ Week 10 win over the Bears
Kerby Joseph, S
75 (100%) — 9 (35%)
PFF defensive grade: 69.2
Sometimes you have to make a great play on the ball for an interception—like Joseph’s second interception against the Green Bay Packers in Week 9, where he baited Aaron Rodgers into the throw. Other times, opposing quarterbacks seem to just throw you one. A gift, of sorts.
Like a lot of the game against the Giants, Joseph starts out as the single-high safety. Jones steps up in the pocket, and delivers a pass that Joseph appeared to see the whole way. It wasn’t a difficult play by any stretch of the imagination, but after the rocky performance Joseph had against the win over the Bears, it was nice to see him get back on track against the Giants. Good job of high-pointing the ball, and even more impressive he was able to not only keep his balance, but take it all the way back to the opponent’s 42 yard line.
On this play, Joseph flashes his closing speed—something I think has been underrated since he was first inserted into the starting lineup. After his failed lunging tackle against Chicago quarterback Justin Fields last week, it was good to see Joseph break down and make the stop.
Joseph finished the day in East Rutherford with three tackles, and the aforementioned interception.
James Mitchell, TE
15 (22%) — 9 (35%)
PFF offensive grade: 53.0
Similar to last week, Mitchell again received snaps whenever the Lions opted to go with their heavy personnel package. Over the next seven games, I would imagine they will begin to incorporate him in the passing game more, especially down in the red zone—where he can use his big body to shield off defenders.
Malcolm Rodriguez, LB
28 (37%) — 5 (19%)
PFF defensive grade: 34.7
He is still having his fair share of struggles in coverage, and to a certain extent, that is to be expected of a rookie linebacker who is currently better suited to stop the run. This rub-route concept is difficult to stop for most defenses without excellent execution, but it quickly puts Rodriguez out of phase, and into chase mode. Per PFF, the rookie out of Oklahoma State was targeted five times in coverage, with four of those passes resulted in completions for Jones.
On this play, it appears Rodriguez is surprised by the end around, and doesn’t see the ball carrier until it is too late. Hard to completely fault him, but this is an example of how and why a rookie defenders’ head may be spinning at times. NFL offenses are complex while also being quick-hitting.
It certainly seems as though Rodriguez is still dealing with that elbow injury he suffered against Green Bay, and with second-year linebacker Derrick Barnes coming on over the last few games, it will be interesting to see how the snaps are divided up between the two young defenders over the course of the next seven weeks. Both offer various strengths and weaknesses as players, but Barnes is the more physically gifted of the two, and may end up having the higher upside.
Chase Lucas, DB
DNP: Was inactive against the Giants due to an ankle injury