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2018 Buffalo Bills scouting report: defensive end Jerry Hughes

Can the Bills’ top pass rusher find his groove once again?

In the 2017 NFL season, the Buffalo Bills did not sack many quarterbacks. Only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Indianapolis Colts had fewer sacks than the Bills, who tied with the New York Giants for 30th overall with 27 sacks on the season. As the team looks to rebound in that defensive category in 2018, each member of a revamped defensive line will have to do his part.

In the latest installment of our “90 players in 90 days” series, we look at the man expected to be Buffalo’s top edge-rusher once again.

Name: Jerry Hughes

Number: 55

Position: DE

Height/Weight: 6’2” 254 lbs.

Age: 29

Experience: 8

College: TCU

Draft: Drafted in the first round (31st overall) by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2010 NFL Draft

Financial situation (per Spotrac): Hughes enters the fourth year of a five-year extension worth $45 million. His $10.4 million cap hit is tops on the Bills’ roster this season.

2017 Recap: Looking at sack numbers shows a down year for Hughes, but a deeper dive into his performance indicates that he did not play poorly at all. He had 44 tackles and 4 sacks last season, adding one forced fumble to his ledger. Four sacks was his lowest total with the Bills, but it also represented the team-high total. FOX Sports lists Hughes among the league-leaders in run stuffs, as the veteran totaled 10.5 on the year. He also had 19 quarterback hurries, which was down from a career-high 28.5 in 2016. (For what it’s worth, Chris Trapasso had Hughes down for 32 quarterback hurries this season. That data was courtesy of Pro Football Focus.) Contending with double-teams all year obviously did not lend itself to great statistical production for Hughes in 2017.

Positional outlook: Hughes projects as one of the starters at defensive end, with newly-acquired veteran Trent Murphy slated to line up opposite him. Eddie Yarbrough and Shaq Lawson appear to be in line as the primary reserves, with Owa Odighizuwa, Terrance Fede, Marquavious Lewis, Mat Boesen, and Mike Love among the other players battling for roster spots.

2018 Offseason: Hughes has been a fixture at right defensive end throughout minicamp and OTAs thus far.

2018 season outlook: While the possibility exists that Hughes becomes a salary cap casualty, that possibility is quite slim. Even with reduced sack numbers over the last few seasons, Hughes has been a consistent, disruptive force for the Bills’ defense. He is clearly the best of the bunch at the defensive end position, and the team would do more harm in trying to replace him (at a dead cap charge of $6.8 million) than it would in just allowing him to do what he does. An improvement in the talent around him should help Hughes to find his groove once more, and if it does, he will be one of the driving forces on Buffalo’s defense yet again.