NFL draft’s top picks Aidan Hutchinson, Travon Walker meet Sunday: ‘I love the one we got’

Detroit Free Press

The accolades keep coming for Detroit Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson.

Hutchinson was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month on Thursday after he finished November with two interceptions, one sack and one fumble recovery.

The No. 2 pick of April’s draft, Hutchinson was named NFC Defensive Rookie of the Week after a three-tackle, two-takeaway performance last month in a win against the New York Giants. He leads the Lions with 5.5 sacks this season and is one of the favorites for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

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Just three Lions have won that award previously: Ndamukong Suh 2009, Bubba Baker in 1978 and Lem Barney in 1967. Hutchinson, Suh and Louis Delmas are the only Lions to win Defensive Rookie of the Month.

“I think if he ends up winning the rookie of the year, it’s just some icing on the cake for him,” Lions defensive line coach Todd Wash said Wednesday. “But that’s the last thing in his mind. He just wants to win football games and be a positive role for our team, and if it happens, it happens.”

Hutchinson’s production has come in bunches this season.

He had a three-sack game in Week 2 against the Washington Commanders, 1½ sacks in a Week 7 loss to the Dallas Cowboys and one sack in an eight-tackle performance last month against the Chicago Bears. He also made two acrobatic interceptions dropping into pass coverage against the Giants and Green Bay Packers, but did not have a tackle in last week’s Thanksgiving loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Wash on Wednesday praised Hutchinson’s play as an edge run defender, and said his goal for the rookie in the final six weeks of the regular season is to “continue to develop as a pass rusher.”

“We’re keeping him on the left side for the most part, I think he likes that,” Wash said. “But just constant pressure is what we’re kind of looking for and that’s our expectations and that’s his expectations. He missed a couple again last week. But that’s the biggest thing. I think he’s really improved when we looked at the tape last week. He has really improved on setting the edge and staying square.

“Our edges are getting set, and he’s really took a lot of pride in that. Early on we were turned, we talk about ‘ass to the sideline.’ But he’s staying square and doing a really nice job in the run game. We want to see consistent pressure, and that’s not just for him, that’s for the rest of our guys. We got some guys who can rush the passer, we just got to finish.”

The Lions (4-7) host the Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7) on Sunday in a matchup that features the top two picks from April’s draft.

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Travon Walker, who went No. 1 overall to the Jaguars, has 37 tackles, six quarterback hits, 2½ sacks and one interception while playing outside linebacker and defensive end. Hutchinson has 31 tackles and 10 quarterback hits for the Lions.

“He’s a talented guy but he also plays really hard, and that’s not always hand in hand so that’s a hats off to him,” Lions center Frank Ragnow said of Walker. “Obviously, he’s a freak show but we’ve got some great tackles on the outside so that’ll be a good test.”

The Jaguars heavily considered Hutchinson before talking Walker with the first pick, and the Lions would have taken Walker had Hutchinson gone No. 1.

“We liked him. I liked him,” Wash said. “But I mean, he was a big, physical, powerful player and we liked him going into the draft. But I will say this, I love the one we got.”

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

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