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2019 All-22 analysis: Jerry Hughes, defensive end

Our personnel reviews continue with defensive end Jerry Hughes

Buffalo Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes was signed to a contract extension during the offseason and promptly had a down year statistically. Whoops. It was discovered after the season was over that Hughes sustained a wrist injury and played through the pain for an undisclosed amount of time. Could that have been part of the problem? Let’s check in.

Play 1

I went for a larger cross section of games for Jerry Hughes as injury details such as “when the heck did it occur” seem to be sparse. In Week 1, Hughes is one of the first players moving and it appears he hasn’t lost his first step. The move I consider read & react is designed to keep the lineman’s hands off your jersey to allow freer movement in either direction. The play takes Hughes a bit behind Darnold so he cuts back inside for the sack.

Play 2

Hughes was asked to read & react a lot so here’s him being asked to do the opposite. The Bills were supposed to become a bully under Rex Ryan, but he never came up with plays to take the opposing team’s lunch money like this one. With too many Bills to block and Hughes set loose, bad things happen rapidly.

Play 3

Despite not having an initial blocking assignment, this too is a read & react play. Hughes can take an angle toward whoever keeps the ball. The need to process information on two players and make a decision does seem to slow Hughes a tad. He doesn’t catch up to the run but shows a lot of intelligence cutting the play off rather than blindly pursuing.

Play 4

The GIF really does all the work for this play. Hughes transitions between a swim and spin move quite rapidly.

Play 5

First off the answer is “yes.” That is Jordan Phillips at defensive end. Hughes and Phillips get to Dak Prescott pretty quickly and flush the quarterback out. From there, Hughes takes the long way around and nearly makes the play.

Play 6

Jerry Hughes’s go-to is the dip and rip. This game was in Week 13 and Hughes is still using his signature move effectively. Neither fatigue nor injury show up on this play.

Play 7

It should be a safe bet that Hughes was dealing with his injured wrist in this game. He uses both hands to effectively ward off his opponent. Here’s the rip move again, but after a swim move and hand fighting.

Play 8

This one is for fun primarily, although there is a point. The Buffalo Bills’ front four are incredibly versatile, which Leslie Frazier and Sean McDermott take advantage of. Shaq Lawson the defensive tackle. Jordan Phillips the defensive end. Jerry Hughes the linebacker.


Jerry Hughes looks much like his normal self so why the declining stats? I don’t think he was completely his old self. I don’t have exact frequency data but it appeared as if he was pushed to the ground a bit more this season. While I think Hughes is close to his old self, I think he’s starting to slow down a bit or an injury was bothering him.

There are other considerations too. Jerry Hughes has had Kyle Williams next to him nearly every year. While the Bills ran plenty of stunts and tricks, they weren’t the same as when Kyle was here. It’s also notable the number of times I saw Hughes using a read & react technique. It’s harder to get sacks, QB hits, and TFLs with this style of play. Another way to say it is that Frasier and McDermott aren’t too worried about what their sack total is.

There’s no guarantee Jerry Hughes will return to form in the 2020 season, but there’s enough left in the tank to keep him around.