Jaelan Phillips vs. Aidan Hutchinson: Dolphins-Lions a Showcase Game for Top Young Pass Rushers

    Aidan Hutchinson and Jaelan Phillips meet for the first time in the NFL when the Miami Dolphins visit the Detroit Lions Sunday.

    MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The Miami Dolphins offensive line spent the early part of this week studying Detroit Lions pass rusher Aidan Hutchinson, the rookie wrecking ball who’s waiting in the Motor City this week.

    But the best prep they had for the No. 2 pick in the draft came in practice. The Dolphins’ own young talented pass rusher, Jaelan Phillips, isn’t exactly a carbon copy, but the two players certainly have far more in common than they have differences.

    Dolphins Jaelan Phillips vs. Lions’ Aidan Hutchinson

    Dolphins linemen Liam Eichenberg and Robert Jones both tangled with Hutchinson when he was an ascending player at the University of Michigan. And they’ve tussled with Phillips most every day in practice since entering the league together in the spring of 2021.

    “Aidan’s motor is just like JP’s,” said Jones, a former Middle Tennessee State Blue Raider who faced Hutchinson’s Wolverines in 2019. Jaelan’s motor last year coming into the league, you looked at him, and you were like, ‘Man, that’s going to be a really good player.’ Same thing with Aidan. I played him at Michigan, he had a really good motor also. He’s a really good player. Big, long, Gonna see a lot of good things in the league here in the future.”

    Added Eichenberg, who played collegiately at Notre Dame: “I played him when he was a heavier guy. I think he might have been like 280. He was a big dude. I was like, ‘Damn.’ I think he’s leaned out a lot. When we played him, I was like, ‘Damn, that dude’s going to be a good player.’ And he became a really good player.”

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    Did he ever. Hutchinson has followed up what Eichenberg called “a dominant” 2021 collegiate season with a similarly impressive NFL debut.

    He leads all rookies with 4.5 sacks, has 12 pressures, and is one of the very few bright spots on an otherwise terrible Lions’ defense.

    “He’s just he’s tenacious, you know, he’s, he gets after it,” Phillips said. “He has good technique. The motor and just how hard he plays, it kind of sticks out to me.”

    Jaelan Phillips Is on a Heater

    Phillips likewise maximizes his great talent with great effort. He ranked second behind Micah Parsons among all rookies in sacks in 2021 (8.5). And he’s getting better as the season goes along. His three sacks on the year have all come in the last four weeks.

    He leads the Dolphins in tackles for loss (4) and quarterback pressures (10). And he had negative plays on back-to-back snaps in Miami’s Week 7 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    “I saw some of the best effort that I’ve witnessed from a player playing 60 snaps in the final 10 snaps of this game,” Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel said. “He’s known as a strainer and a hard worker, but he was playing at a speed at the end of the game that his teammates noticed and felt and it gives him a chance to do some cool things for us later in games with effort and strain like that. It speaks to all of his preparation and how good of shape he’s in. It was pretty impressive.”

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    When Phillips and Hutchinson take the field Sunday, it’ll be the first time their paths have crossed. And with the next Dolphins-Lions game likely not coming for another four years, this probably won’t be the start of a major rivalry.

    But don’t be surprised if you see them together again plenty of times in the future — at the Pro Bowl.

    “It’ll be fun to see,” Phillips said. “He’s a young guy, super talented. So I’m excited to see him work for sure. He’s gonna be a formidable pass rusher in the league.”

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