Detroit Lions X-Factors on Defense Ft. Aidan Hutchinson, Alex Anzalone, and Cameron Sutton

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If the Detroit Lions intend on taking the next step as an organization in 2023, the team’s defense will need to perform at a much higher level than it did a year ago.

In order for that to occur, the defense’s “X-factors” will need to be consistently productive all throughout the upcoming campaign.

Let’s take a look now at the Lions’ three biggest X-factors headed into the 2023 season.

EDGE Aidan Hutchinson

Hutchinson, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, delivered a promising rookie campaign.

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He more than lived up to the bill of a top-three selection, notching 9.5 sacks, nine tackles for loss and 15 quarterback hits while suiting up for a full season’s worth of games.

He also produced three interceptions, three passes defensed and two fumble recoveries. In doing so, he became the first rookie in NFL history to record a season with at least 7.5 sacks, three picks and a pair of fumble recoveries.

It led to the Michigan product finishing as the runner-up for the Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

Entering the 2023 season, Hutchinson will be relied upon to lead Detroit’s pass-rushing efforts, and the expectation is that he’ll be up for the challenge.

I’m projecting the second-year pro – as one of the X-factors on the defensive side of the ball – to amass double-digit sacks for the Lions this upcoming season.

CB Cam Sutton

Sutton is a vital piece of Detroit’s revamped secondary.

The seventh-year pro joins the Lions after recording a career-best season with the organization that drafted him, the Pittsburgh Steelers. He posted career-high marks in both interceptions (three) and passes defensed (15), while playing in 16 games for a fourth consecutive campaign.

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Additionally, he allowed a passer rating of only 69.6 on throws his way a season ago. In stark contrast, Detroit’s defense, collectively, permitted a passer rating against of 94.2 in 2022.

Sutton projects to be an immediate impact performer in the Lions’ defensive backs room, and should help the team’s pass defense be much more productive in 2023.

LB Alex Anzalone

Anzalone is the de facto quarterback of the Lions’ defense.

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For the last two years, he’s been a defensive captain and the green-dot helmet wearer (the relayer of defensive play calls from coordinator Aaron Glenn).

Additionally, the middle linebacker is coming off his best campaign as a pro. In 2022, the former New Orleans Saints linebacker logged 1,080 defensive snaps – 95 percent of the team’s defensive snaps for the season – and contributed a career-high 125 total tackles, including seven for loss, seven quarterback hits, 1.5 sacks and one interception.

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Although Anzalone may still over-pursue and whiff on a tackle attempt here and there, he more than proved his worth in the middle of Detroit’s defense a season ago.

And, I expect Anzalone, as the elder statesman of the team’s linebackers group, to be an integral member of Glenn’s unit once again this upcoming season.

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