Lions-Jets rookie film breakdown: Aidan Hutchinson, James Houston have big days in win

Another week, another big performance from several Detroit Lions’ rookies on their way to their sixth win in seven weeks. It wasn’t the prettiest performance of the season, but they found a way to win on the road, this time taking down the New York Jets by a score of 20-17.

As part of our ongoing series, let’s take a closer look at how each member of the Lions’ 2022 draft class fared in their Week 15 win over the Jets.

Aidan Hutchinson, DL

54 snaps (86% of total defensive snaps) — 4 special teams snaps (14%)
PFF defensive grade: 83.4

I know he was the second overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft, but still—the fact that Hutchinson is already this consistent of a pro is pretty special. The pass rushing aspect of his game will come with time and consistently beating professional tackles is an art form that isn’t easily acquired. The other parts of his game? Well, those have been solid from the jump.

Take this play on the Lions’ second defensive series for example. He squeezes down the line quickly, ensuring he is gap sound after the tackle climbs to the second level. Despite taking those steps inside to squeeze, he is still able to make the play on the ball carrier. Nobody is perfect, especially rookies, but Hutchinson has been about as good as you could hope for from a rookie defensive end who does a lot for his defense.

Later on in the game, Hutchinson had a really impressive two-play sequence that resulted in a stop for a short gain on the ground, followed by the rookie out of Michigan drawing a holding call.

What a comeback it was for defensive end Romeo Okwara, who tallied two sacks against the Jets during his return from an Achilles injury suffered in 2021. His second sack comes in the Jets’ final offensive series, and not without some help from his fellow defensive linemen. Hutchinson starts out lined up at the three-technique, with Romeo Okwara split outside of him, and Jets’ tight end CJ Uzomah. Hutchinson wins his matchup, forcing Jets’ quarterback Zach Wilson to step up in the pocket, right into the welcoming arms of Okwara.

Hutchinson finished the day with five total tackles, including one for loss.

Jameson Williams, WR

13 (19%)
PFF offensive grade: 53.3

The Lions are opting to take a slower approach with Williams, and with how much talent he can bring to the Lions’ offense, both now and in the future—I wholeheartedly agree with them.

Goff took one shot at Williams but left it short. Some will say it is a case of Goff not possessing the requisite arm strength, but I believe it is more so Goff getting on the same page with Williams. In the NFL, almost everyone is fast. However, very few people run like Williams. Let’s give Goff some time to get in sync with the speedster out of Alabama before we make sweeping conclusions.

Josh Paschal, DL

14 (22%)
PFF defensive grade: 54.1

With the front seven getting healthier, Paschal is another player the Lions can afford to take things slower with. With that said, I do think his usage increases over the final three weeks of the regular season.

Kerby Joseph, S

63 (100%) — 10 (36%)
PFF defensive grade: 53.6

Overall, this was a forgettable day for most of the Lions’ secondary. Sure, they did force one turnover, courtesy of an interception in the second half from cornerback Jerry Jacobs. But beyond that, Wilson threw several questionable passes that had turnover potential, only for them to somehow come down in the hands of a Jets’ receiver.

On this play, Joseph ends up in man-to-man coverage with Uzomah, who releases right up the seam, and with a deceptive step with his left foot, gets Joseph to flip his hips. This is all Uzomah needs to create a bunch of separation, resulting in an easy throw for Wilson. Realizing he was beaten, Joseph tries making one last-ditch effort on the ball, but he was too late, sliding off of Uzomah, and allowing the walk-in score.

With that covered, it wasn’t all bad for Joseph. Here is a rep where he flashes his elite athletic tools and closes the gap on a ball carrier in a hurry. Pre-snap, he is lined up as the deep safety, and before you know it—he has put his foot in the ground and is getting downhill to aid in run support. Linebacker Jarrad Davis makes a valiant diving effort, and cornerback Will Harris does a good job of setting an edge, but Jets’ running back Zonovan Knight is a tough person to get on the ground. He is almost out of Harris’ grasp when Joseph arrives, limiting Knight to a short gain, despite all his efforts.

James Mitchell, TE

16 (24%) — 8 (29%)
PFF offensive grade: 51.2

Mitchell got involved in the passing game earlier this week, with one of his two catches coming on the first series of the game. He begins the play in-line with right tackle Penei Sewell, with fellow tight end Shane Zylstra split-out to the right of Mitchell. Pre-snap, Zylstra shuffles to the left a few steps, and as the ball is being snapped, runs a route right at Jets’ linebacker Quincy Williams. Meanwhile, Mitchell is initially acting like he is going to stay in to help block defensive end John Franklin-Myers. Instead, he shucks Franklin-Myers inside, and whips his head around to become a target for quarterback Jared Goff. And because of Mitchell’s acting job, cornerback Sauce Gardner doesn’t pick up the Lions’ tight end as a receiver until it is too late. Easy throw for Goff and a first down for the Lions.

Malcolm Rodriguez, LB

36 (57%) — 4 (14%)
PFF defensive grade: 70.0

Statistically speaking, it was a quieter day for the Detroit Cowboy. He had two tackles during his 36 defensive snaps but had a handful of plays like this, where he was instrumental in the Lions’ run defense having another really sound week.

James Houston, LB

25 (40%) — 12 (43%)
PFF defensive grade: 65.3

This week was a bit different than the last few weeks for Houston. He still had a big day along the defensive line—racking up yet another sack, three quarterback hits, and three total tackles, including one for loss. However, his first huge play wasn’t on defense, but special teams.

Houston has been a core special teamer for several weeks now, as defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn has begun to weave him into the edge rotation. On this particular punt, one that returner Kalif Raymond made a house call on, Houston was actually the closest to getting a hand on the ball, before throwing the final block that allowed Raymond to score.

Similar to Hutchinson’s sack a week ago, they don’t come much easier than this. All pass-rushers will tell you—you always take the free ones.

With the sample size we now have with Houston as a pass-rusher, I really am beginning to think that his ghost rush move is simply not blockable. Watch as he makes short work of the left tackle on his way to forcing a hurried throw from Wilson.

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