Is Anthony Hitchens A Potential Free Agent Target For The Lions?
The Lions have invested a lot into their in their middle linebacker position as they drafted Jarrad Davis from Florida in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. The Lions do not have a backup for Davis as Nick Bellore ($580,000 ~ 2017 cap hit) has not been resigned for 2018. Bellore is a seven-year veteran, but the Lions could definitely go younger at the middle linebacker position for depth. One player they could look at is a fourth-year player from Iowa who has spent his career playing for the Dallas Cowboys, Anthony Hitchens.
I have watched five of Hitchens’ games from the 2017 season and have prepared an in-depth report that will give you an idea if the Lions should have any interest or not.
Name: Anthony Hitchens
Position: 4-3 ILB
DOB: 06-10-1992 (25 years old)
Drafted: 2014 – 4th – Dallas Cowboys
Former Team: Dallas Cowboys
Games Played: 60
Games Started: 48
2017- Tibial Plateau Fracture Right Knee (Weeks 1-4 – OUT), Groin (Weeks 12-13)
2016- Knee (Week 9)
2015- Foot (Week 1), Ankle (10-12)
2014- Chest (Week 10), Ankle (Week 17)
2017- 12 games, 12 starts, 2 PDs, 1 FF, and 84 tackles
2014- 16 games, 11 starts, 1 INT, 5 PDs, and 84 tackles
Career Stats- 48 career starts, 1 INT, 9 PDs, 2 FF, 3.5 sacks, and 312 tackles.
Weight: 240 lbs.
40-yard dash: 4.74
10-yard split: 1.62
Arm Length: 32 1/2
Hand Size: 9 1/8
Vertical: 35 1/2
3 Cone: 7.15
Short Shuttle: 4.44
Broad Jump: 117”
Bench Press: 23 reps
2017- vs GB 10/08, @ ATL 11/12, vs LAC 11/23, vs WAS 11/30, @ NYG 12/10
Worst: Athletic Ability, vs Run at POA, vs Outside Run, Zone Coverage, Man Coverage, Ball Skills, Blitzing, Tackling
Athletic Ability: 3/7
Mental Processing: 3/7
Competitive Toughness: 3/7
Play Speed: 3/7
Play Strength: 3/7
Run at Point of Attack: 3/7
Outside Run: 2/7
Zone Coverage: 3/7
Man Coverage: 3/7
Ball Skills: 2/7
Hitchens is a fourth-year player who played and started twelve games for the Dallas Cowboys in 2017. He played in every game for three straight seasons until missing four games in 2017. Under defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, he played in a 4-3 defense that implemented more zone coverage (Cover 1-4) than man coverage which allowed him to consistently play as an inside linebacker and a hook/curl player. He has adequate size as his height (6003), weight (240), and hand size (9 1/8) are all below the 50th percentile while his arm length (32 1/2) is solid. Hitchens has adequate athletic ability as he has below average balance and marginal quickness, agility, and explosiveness.
He displays an adequate ability to play run at the point of attack due to below average mental processing to key and diagnose the formation and blocking scheme pre and post-snap. Hitchens has adequate click & close and a marginal ability to disengage blocks from offensive linemen on gap and inside zone due to minimal hand placement. He also displays adequate strength, he gets out leveraged easily on inside zone, and is not physical enough to defeat blocks displaying below average competitive toughness. Hitchens is an adequate tackler as he goes too high on running backs in the hole, has adequate form, and displays marginal strength to get the running back down.
Hitchens displays marginal ability to play outside runs as he has adequate mental processing to key and diagnose schemes and formations pre and post-snap and a marginal agility to click and close. He has a minimal ability to disengage blocks from offensive linemen on gap and outside zone as he gets out-leveraged by offensive linemelin with ease on outside zone, he goes under blocks on outside runs frequently, and when he has to go 1 v 1 against offensive linemen outside on gap he gets overpowered and loses his 1 v 1 battles due to marginal hand placement and adequate strength. Hitchens displays an adequate ability to tackle running backs as he takes marginal angles, has minimal pursuit, and uses adequate form. He displays an adequate play strength against all running plays due to not winning his 1 v 1 reps and not being physical at the point of attack. Hitchens is an adequate tackler as he takes marginal angles, has adequate form and technique, and uses marginal strength to get the ball carrier down on his own.
He is an adequate in zone coverage due to below average mental processing to key and diagnose routes, combinations, and down & distance pre and post-snap. Hitchens displays an adequate ability to pattern match as the hook/curl defender as he only adequately mirrors curls, go routes, and post-corners against tight ends/slot wide receivers. He has a below average ability to drop to a spot in zone coverage as he does not continue to get depth, is not aware of what is threating his zone, he keeps his eyes on the quarterback for too long, and he displays a marginal change of direction when coming downhill after the ball is thrown.
Hitchens is below average in man coverage against tight ends/running backs as he displays marginal mental processing to understand his leverage, down & distance, and possible routes. He displays an adequate ability to mirror outs, whip routes, out & ups, slants, and curls against running backs due to adequate athletic ability and marginal change of direction. Hitchens displays an adequate ability to mirror outs, go routes, slants, and curl against tight ends as they win with play strength, athletic ability, and competitive toughness at the top of routes. He has marginal ball skills due to a minimal ability to track, locate, and disrupt the pass. Hitchens also displays a marginal ability to be strong and play through the receiver at the catch point and a minimal ability to create pass breakups/interceptions. He has poor blitzing ability as he demonstrates marginal timing, speed, and the ability to shed while having poor ability to avoid and make the quarterback move off his spot.
Overall, Hitchens is a 4-3 inside linebacker camp body who can contribute on special teams or in an emergency situation due to injury. His adequate athletic ability, ability to play run at the point of attack, zone coverage skills, man coverage skills, and ability to tackle limit him from being a role player. Hitchens would provide depth for the inside linebacker position for the Lions, but his weaknesses are overwhelming and the Lions could find a much better and cheaper (2017 cap hit of $1.9 million ~) option in the NFL Draft or in free agency.