In the early half of the Detroit Lions’ 2022 season, it was second overall pick Aidan Hutchinson who was making an impact. Just 10 games into his career, the former Michigan Wolverine had already picked up 5.5 sacks, two interceptions, and a fumble recovery. It appeared he was as good as advertised.
And while his level of game has continued to rise—with a marked improvement on his run defense in recent weeks— when it comes to sacks, the Lions have had an entirely new dominant force amongst their rookie class.
The rise of sixth-round pick James Houston has been sudden and emphatic. The Lions made Houston active for the first time in Week 12, and the defensive end immediately rewarded Detroit with two sacks in his NFL debut. Despite continuing to have just a limited role on defense—never topping more than 25 snaps in a game—Houston’s pass rushing skills continued to be on display, and the 24-year-old headed into Week 17 against the Bears already second on the team with 5.0 sacks through five games.
But Sunday was his breakout game. Houston had a much bigger role on Sunday, and, again, he rewarded Detroit for that personnel decision. In total, Houston tallied three sacks in the game, including a forced fumble that was recovered by fellow rookie Hutchinson.
Now Houston actually leads the Lions—and all NFL rookies—with 8.0 sacks on the season, and that’s just in six games played with mostly limited reps. Combined with Hutchinson’s 7.5 sacks on the season—and two from Lions second-round pick Josh Paschal on Sunday—the Lions rookie class is now breaking record after record. Here’s just a few of them, courtesy of the Detroit Lions PR team:
The most sacks in @NFL history through 6-career games:— Detroit Lions PR (@LionsPR) January 1, 2023
- @Lions LB @Jthouston_4 with 7.5#OnePride pic.twitter.com/kqX2haCHZQ
.@Lions LB @Jthouston_4 is the fifth player in @NFL history to record 6.0 sacks and one forced fumble through six-career games since at least 1999.— Detroit Lions PR (@LionsPR) January 1, 2023
He is the first to do so since Von Miller in 2011.#OnePride pic.twitter.com/CaiXYm3RKG
Together, @Lions LB @Jthouston_4 and @aidanhutch97 have combined to be:— Detroit Lions PR (@LionsPR) January 1, 2023
- The @NFL's first set of rookie teammates to each log 7.0 sacks in a season.
- The 3rd set of NFL rookie teammates to produce a game with 2.5 sacks.#OnePride pic.twitter.com/2UeZ9l8C9s
.@Lions LB @Jthouston_4 has 3.0 sacks today, and DL Josh Paschal has 2.0 sacks.— Detroit Lions PR (@LionsPR) January 1, 2023
This marks the first time in franchise history two rookies have logged 2.0 sacks in the same game.
Detroit also has 3 different rookies with a multi-sack game this year, also a franchise record. pic.twitter.com/k77KWRNrMP
.@Lions DL Josh Paschal produced his first-career sack today.— Detroit Lions PR (@LionsPR) January 1, 2023
The Lions now have four different rookies with a sack in 2022. Excluding the strike year in 1987, this ties the 1990 Lions for the most rookies to log a sack for Detroit in a single season.#OnePride pic.twitter.com/6OhKb8LXIM
With his interception, @Lions DL @aidanhutch97 is the first rookie DL in @NFL history to record 3 INTs in a season. The last NFL player to do so was Richard Dent (1990).— Detroit Lions PR (@LionsPR) January 1, 2023
He joins Sonny Gandee (1954) as the only DLs in Lions history to record 3 INTs in a season. #OnePride pic.twitter.com/Hjgm6VNBm3
.@Lions DL @aidanhutch97 is the first rookie in NFL history to produce a season with at least:— Detroit Lions PR (@LionsPR) January 1, 2023
He is only the 2nd defensive lineman in NFL history to produce such a season, joining Hall of Fame DL Richard Dent in 1990.#OnePride pic.twitter.com/lQ7emqZp6Y
“It’s a good foundation for us, too,” Hutchinson said after the game. “And yeah, man, it’s very exciting being out there and being a part of games like that.”
This is an exciting time for the Lions defensive front, and it just might be the beginning.