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All-22 appreciation: Jerry Hughes’s big day

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Buffalo Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes has created a bit of a rift among some of us the last few years. The lack of measurable impact has left many frustrated. But many fans like myself swear he’s still playing at a high level. We can go back to debating next week. For now I think it’s safe to say we all agree he had a great day against the New York Jets. This will be less analysis and more “WOW, LOOK AT THAT!” I went more GIF overboard than I usually do so if it took some extra time to load this I am not sorry in the least #dealwithit apologize.


Play 1

One reason that Jerry Hughes doesn’t always light up the stat sheet is that there’s always a handful of plays that are hard to quantify. Sometimes you just gotta sit back and enjoy. The play was too long to get in one GIF but the pass is incomplete. A major reason is that Hughes is helping cover the side Darnold wants to go to. In order to get to the other side of the field he had to travel there. By that time the Bills’ back end has already figured it out.

Play 2

The hand move and then counter to the other side is superb.

Play 3

I’ve seen a lot of complaints about Hughes attacking inside this season and...

They’re not wrong. My only disagreement is that I don’t think it should all be on Hughes. He’s shown exceptional ability to play the edges and juggle the QB/RB conundrum for so long I think he’s earned the benefit of the doubt. He shows it again here.

Play 4

They reeeeeaaaaaally try to disrupt Jerry Hughes on this one and he’s still the guy who makes the play.

Play 5

I do think the foot of Ed Oliver helped George Fant to the ground but all indications are that Hughes was getting him there anyway. Typically considered a speed or finesse player, I’ve been banging the “he’s pretty strong too” drum for awhile now.

Play 6

Another reason Hughes misses some stats is the attention opponents pay him. The double team on Hughes leaves a big gap for Tremaine Edmunds to shoot. A nice stop from La’Mical Perine avoids the hit from Edmunds but sends him back Quinton Jefferson’s way. This is something you’d want from a defensive tackle but Hughes drawing double the attention can work too.

Play 7

This is incredibly fluid. It is quantifiable as a QB hit, but plays like this are best enjoyed more like poetry.

Play 8

I want to stop for a minute and dive into this one. The Jets have decided to double team Jerry Hughes. That happened a good deal but look closer. Nope. A little closer. Alright that’s good. Do you see it? They’re not just double teaming Hughes. They’re double teaming him with two tight ends. And the running back is staying home to help block. That leaves Sam Darnold with only two possible targets. The Bills’ defense comes screaming at Darnold on Hughes’s side with zero consequence as a result.

The Jets have gone all-in on blocking Hughes to the point where they’ve sacrificed half of the field to stop him. The Bills blitz and beat them with the numbers game on Hughes’s side. What if this wasn’t a blitz? A four-man rush would have left seven Bills in coverage vs. two Jets receivers.

Play 9

I won’t turn this into a post questioning play calls in other games but I’ll go fringe on that sentiment and again point out that when Hughes is asked to play contain, consider that **** contained.

Play 10

Hughes knows he has Taron Johnson coming in off the edge and shadows Darnold. There’s some subtle beauty in this play in addition to the forced fumble of course. The tackle is being led by Hughes but probably felt like he was winning the shoving match. Hughes gets to go where he wanted to all along, and the tackle has zero chance of blocking Taron Johnson.

Play 11

This is the third-to-last play by the Jets and George Fant looks frustrated. Hughes isn’t unbeatable by any means and if a tackle is going to be blatant about playing outside the scope of the rules it does make it easier to get this done. Hughes does legitimately lose a battle here and there too. Not this play though. The obvious call set the Jets back ten yards. In a one-score game and on your last-gasp drive this is huge.

Play 12

Knowing he can’t afford to give up another ten yards, it looks like Fant is more tentative this time. He doesn’t give up ten due to penalty, but he does give up two yards and a down.

Play 13

Finally, why was Jerry Hughes where the ball was for the interception that sealed the game? Because Jerry Hughes did a sick spin move to get around Fant again and was right where he needed to be.


Summary

The plays above represent more than a third of his time on the field and overall they go way beyond “good” snaps. That said, and acknowledging I’m one of the biggest Jerry Hughes fans there is, even I’ll admit that not every game has this level of dominance. Though, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t sit back and bask in the glory of it all when it happens.

Furthermore, what this game does show is that Hughes has a lot left in the tank. His hand fighting, change of direction, spin moves, and football IQ all easily show up on tape. You can argue inferior competition for sure, but the athleticism on display speaks for itself. Enjoy watching Hughes this year Bills fans. He hasn’t found a cliff just yet.