Why Aidan Hutchinson says the Lions are ready for a Super Bowl run

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DETROIT — Strolling side by side next to one of the greatest players in NFL history, Detroit Lions edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson continued to take advantage of the opportunity to learn from Hall of Fame receiver Calvin Johnson.

With Lions players set to report for training camp in less than a month, Hutchinson soaked in a few gems from Johnson during the AREA 313 Celebrity Scramble at the Rocket Mortgage Classic on June 25.

“Honestly, just him being around the facility now these days and I feel like him showing his face and him having that gold jacket, he’s such a legend, man,” Hutchinson told ESPN. “He doesn’t have to say much for you to be inspired by him.”

After reaching the NFC Championship game for the first time in 1991, Hutchinson and the Lions have Super Bowl aspirations for this upcoming season. According to ESPN BET, Detroit will open the season with the fourth-best odds to win the title (+1100), and winning the franchise’s first Super Bowl is something they’re taking seriously.

“It’s unreal. There’s a lot of hype coming into this year, but I think it’s well-deserved hype,” Hutchinson told ESPN. “I think a lot more guys on our team understand what this year is, and we understand what we got and we’re all ready.”

Detroit has secured multi-year contract extensions for foundational playmakers Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jared Goff and Penei Sewell, while also revamping its secondary with the additions of rookie cornerbacks Terrion Arnold (first round) and Ennis Rakestraw Jr. (second round).

The front office also added Las Vegas Raiders CB Amik Robertson in free agency and traded for Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB Carlton Davis III — both are expected to help a Lions defense that allowed touchdowns on 23% of opponents’ drives, which ranked 25th in the league.

Johnson, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2021 after spending his entire career in Detroit, also likes the Lions’ chances. Coming off their first division title in three decades, Johnson wants to see Detroit dominate the NFC North for another season.

“After last year, I feel like they can play with anybody,” Johnson said. “The first step is to handle what we do in our division. If we can handle what we do in our division, that goes a long way.”

Entering Year 3, Hutchinson has established himself among the league’s elite after being named to his first Pro Bowl following the 2021 season. The No. 2 overall pick of the 2022 draft is the first player in NFL history to record 10 sacks and three interceptions through 20 career games. Last season, he registered 11.5 sacks but says he has trained this offseason to genarally become more productive rather than pinpointing one specific area of improvement.

“It’s tough to say, because I feel like the biggest thing is consistency. So, I feel like it’s consistency with working out, with diet, with nutrition, with everything,” Hutchinson said. “I feel like that just continues to stack up every year, along with your knowledge of the game. As those things are rising, you just continue to level up as a player, so all around.”

Obviously, Lions coach Dan Campbell and his staff would love to see more sacks from Hutchinson in 2024, but they’re working on schemes to add more pressure on opposing quarterbacks from multiple places. Better coverage in the secondary should also help Hutchinson reach a new level.

Like his teammates, Hutchinson is ready for the challenge.

“I think everyone has put everything into this upcoming year, and I feel like for the years to come as well, because it’s not our last year we’re all playing,” Hutchinson said. “There’s a lot of great players on this team, and I think we could just have repeated success over the next few years.”

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