We’ve been stanning for Detroit Lions defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand ever since he came out of the gates swinging. Immediately thrown into a significant role on defense (he’s played in at least 45 percent of snaps in every game this season), Hand quickly established himself as a valuable piece on the edge in rushing downs and a pretty impressive pass rusher from the interior.
But with any rookie, there should be some expected regression after a hot start. We’re now to the point in the season where opposing teams finally have game tape on rookies and can start specifically game planning against them. Or sometimes, the small sample size of a player can cause fans and analysts to overrate a young player.
Neither of those appear to be the case for Hand. After earning the No. 1 Pro Football Focus grade through the first seven weeks of the season, nothing has changed a month later. With an overall grade of 88.2, Hand remains PFF’s best rookie of the year.
“There have been 126 interior defenders who have played at least 100 defensive snaps this season. Among them, Hand ranks eighth in terms of overall grade,” PFF’s William Moy writes.
While Hand has been getting a lot of praise of his pass-rushing abilities—he’s third on the team with 3.0 sacks—it’s really his well-roundedness that makes him such a special, versatile player. Hand is only one of four NFL players that has a pass-rushing grade and a run-stopping grade of over 77.0. The other three players: Aaron Donald, Fletcher Cox and Kenny Clark. That’s some impressive company.
And it’s that consistency that Hand produces week in and week out that has prevented any kind of rookie setback. Per PFF, Hand has produced an overall grade of 70.0 or better in seven of nine games. This isn’t a case where one or two games pad his season stats; he’s bringing it every week.
And with the Lions’ supporting cast on the defensive line playing pretty darn well, there’s finally some hope for Detroit’s defensive front, and we haven’t seen that since Ndamukong Suh left town.