Because of the chicken Caesar wrap with sweet potato fries — that’s why I think the Detroit Lions are going to be better this year.
OK, that’s not the only reason — I have a bunch of reasons why I think this team will be better, which we’ll get to in a bit.
But it all starts with a chicken Caesar wrap — that was Aidan Hutchinson’s go-to takeout meal last season.
“I took this offseason to kind of evaluate all the different ways I can improve — the little things, like diet and food,” he said. “Last year, I was eating takeout meals, oh really, after every day, like during the season, so that couldn’t be good for inflammation.”
As the season progressed, and those takeout meals started adding up, he lost strength.
A year later — a year older and a year wiser — he is planning to have a chef cook his meals.
“My confidence right now is really through the roof,” Hutchinson said Thursday. “I feel like I’m just on a completely different level. I mean instinctually. I mean my explosiveness. I mean everywhere across the board. I feel like I’ve taken myself to the next level.”
If he was the only one developing, that would be one thing.
But this entire defense has gone to the next level.
“It’s definitely different,” Hutchinson said.
When Hutchinson looks around the huddle now, what does he see? “Dudes,” he said. “Just older vets, especially in the back end.”
The hype around this team seems to grow every day.
But it’s justified.
Teams can improve two main ways: By adding talent or improving the talent they have.
And I believe the Lions have done both.
The Lions upgraded their secondary by bringing in “dudes” as Hutchinson said, added better players on offense and added depth across the roster.
“The boys are trying to load up on defense so it gets me fired up,” Hutchinson said. “You know what Brad (Holmes) and Dan (Campbell), what those guys are doing? They’re trying to make the push for right now.”
The Lions were extremely young last season, with youngsters playing important roles, and now those players are in position to take a step forward. Guys such as Hutchinson.
Will it happen? Nothing is certain.
But cutting out the Caesar wraps — and learning from last season — is a positive start.
“I feel stronger than ever,” Hutchinson said. “I feel more mobile than ever. … I think it’s helped me a ton, so I can’t wait.”
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Better across the board
You can view this team two ways: taking in the big picture, or as a series of individual stories.
And the most fascinating individual story is wide receiver Jameson Williams, who has been suspended six games for violating the NFL’s anti-gambling rules and betting on games outside of the NFL.
“It hit me out of the blue,” he said Thursday.
Here are a few thoughts about Williams:
1. No matter what you think of the rules — I think it’s hypocritical to see a league benefit tremendously from gambling, including advertising money from gambling, in a state where gambling is legal, then say it is wrong for players to gamble on other sports — they’re still the rules. So there is no gray area here — you better follow the rule;
2. It’s a huge red flag that he broke the rules, making me wonder about his maturity and decision-making;
3. It stinks for this team that he will miss six games;
4. It’s quite possible that he can grow from this — shoot, he had better;
5. But I give him credit for standing up to the media and answering questions on Thursday. “The suspension, it pretty much, it is what it is,” Williams said. “The policy, I broke a policy. I pretty much looked past those things.”
Considering all of that, when he gets back from his suspension, he should help this team, just by giving it a downfield threat.
“I think that some of the biggest growth is just in his routes,” Campbell said. “He ran a couple of routes (Wednesday) where he’s hitting the gap and if he drops his weight and puts his foot in the ground, then in about 18 yards he comes back to the quarterback, and it was, you know, those things are pretty impressive because when you can use your speed not just to take the top off, but, you know, to put fear in the defense and then put your foot in the ground, and the quarterback puts it on a rope, I mean that’s hard to cover.”
Going for it
You can also improve a team by making the roster more versatile.
Which the Lions did: They have so many offensive talents that it opens up all kinds of possibilities.
“I mean we got a lot more versatility and that does come with the depth,” Campbell said.
Another way to improve a team is through competition at any position group.
Such as linebacker.
“We’ve added competition in that room,” Campbell said of having Alex Anzalone, Derrick Barnes, Jack Campbell and Malcolm Rodriguez at the position. “Here’s the beauty of Alex. He can play Mike (middle) and Will (weak side). And so now it’s about — ‘Hey let’s go, Barnes’ — you know — “let’s go, Campbell, let’s go, Rodriguez’ — you know, and you just you let them duke it out.”
That competition will only bring out better players and improve this team.
Let the cream rise to the top.
But hold the crème, and eat something healthy.