Pair of Rookie Michiganders
Rookies Sauce Gardner and Aidan Hutchinson are Michiganders.
Gardner, the No. 4 overall pick, is from Detroit while Hutchinson, the No. 2 overall pick, grew up in Plymouth, about 27 miles west of the city before attending the University of Michigan. Hutchinson's 7 sacks leads the team and all rookies. He also has 35 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 13 QB hits and 2 interceptions.
"We did a lot of work on him," HC Robert Saleh said. "He's exactly what we thought he'd be. High effort, relentless, he's got a tremendous skillset to him. He's doing a really nice job having this kind of production as a rookie and he still has four games left. … We felt like he'd be a perennial double-digit sack guy. I don't know if you ever expect it as a rookie, but he's been fantastic."
Gardner leads the NFL with 16 pass defenses and his 67 receiving yards allowed in man coverage is the fewest among 58 cornerbacks with at least 20 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. His 88.7 PFF coverage grade leads all DBs and it's the highest rookie grade since 2017 (Tre'Davious White).
"I know there are a lot of guys out there that are having fantastic years, but he does things that don't show up on tape or the statistics," Saleh said of Gardner. "The way he's blanketing receivers, not just receivers, the best of the best. From Ja'Marr Chase to Tyreek Hill to Jaylen Waddle to Justin Jefferson to Stefon Diggs twice. There's elite company he has had to go against and he has been doing just as good a job as anyone, not just rookies but players all around.
"If you watch his tape, it is unquestionably Defensive Rookie of the Year."
Senior Bowl Staffs
Sunday's game features the two Senior Bowl coaching staffs from earlier this year.
In January, Saleh's staff coached the National squad in Mobile, AL, while Dan Campbell's Lionsstaff coached the American squad. Eleven months later, the two teams, who had a combined record of 7-26-1 in the 2021 season, are within striking distance of the playoffs at 7-6 (Jets) and 6-7 (Lions).
"They are doing a really nice job," Saleh said. "Dan Campbell, just being able to spend time with him, he's awesome. Salt of the earth. He is just a good dude. I don't know them all, I know a few of them, but they do a really nice job. They play their tails off and they are very detailed.
"So just that staff and what they have been able to accomplish over two years, they are red-hot and you can see why."
See the top photos from Wednesday's practice leading up to the Lions game.
Hear Them Roar
The Lions are one of the NFL's hottest teams.
They're 5-1 in their last six matchups and are averaging 32.2 points per game over the last five weeks, tied for second most in the league. QB Jared Goff has thrown for 8 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in that span for a 107.9 rating while completing 69.2% of his passes.
Detroit's OL has allowed 19 sacks this season, the third fewest. It's also paved the way for RB Jamaal Williams, whose 14 rushing touchdowns lead the league. The Lions have scored a touchdown on a league-high 74% of their red-zone trips this season.
"Just a really talented offensive line," Saleh said. "The play with an edge. Their skill guys, obviously, are pretty good, too. Jared Goff, he was the No. 1 pick in the draft and has led a team to a Super Bowl. When he's back there and he's comfortable, he's as good as anybody in this game. He's playing at a very high level and he's taking care of the football."