Due to a little thing I like to call “poor time management” I knew I’d be a little short trying to do a full review of three defensive ends. “No worries!” I cry to the universe. We all know Jerry Hughes is awesome. I can cut to the chase with a player we all know and love to shave some time. Has he lost a step? If yes, was it a big step? Let’s find out.
I decided to focus on the AFC Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs for a couple reasons. First, the defense had a pretty bad day. Would Hughes still show up? Second, the biggest concern we have for Hughes is age. As the latest possible game in the season he should be the most worn down he’s gonna get.
Immediately one of the things that jumps off the screen is that teams are STILL double-teaming Hughes. On this play Hughes still shrinks the pocket quite a bit despite the double-team. There’s a little bit of a hold at the end there too.
That’s a pretty slick move to avoid the block by Travis Kelce. A well-timed swim gets him moving with the runner and making sure the play doesn’t hit the edge.
Jerry Hughes is shadowing Patrick Mahomes. This should help prevent scrambles and gives him a shot at disrupting passing lanes. Hughes seems to be focused on preventing a throw to his left. Against a lot of teams this probably ends well for Buffalo. Against Kansas City, Kelce knows to sit tight rather than drift to the side and Mahomes finds him.
It’s not a true footrace as Mahomes isn’t sprinting but you get the idea. Hughes is trusted to make sure Mahomes can’t escape and is successful thanks to veteran smarts, a great pursuit angle, and more than enough speed to make it happen. The early ability to clear his left arm on the block from Kelce sets the stage for everything else.
This isn’t the result we wanted, but Hughes shows off why he’s been considered such a great player for so long. There’s a lot to diagnose and if it had remained only the first two concerns I like Hughes’s odds to disrupt the play. He’s there to prevent Mahomes from running, and is in great position to get his hands up and maybe tip a pass. Unfortunately Kelce is sneaking into the play in an unconventional manner and Mahomes is scary quick to make the decision on the light lob. Though the physics of the cut back are too much for really any player to stop this, Hughes is reacting incredibly fast to an unconventional play.
Let’s face facts. Jerry Hughes in 2020 isn’t the Cold Front version of Hughes. Father Time is a heavyweight, and still undisputed. In the AFC Championship Game, Hughes had footing/balance issues on a few plays—one of which could have been the illegal block in the back...but I digress.
If you’re looking closely you’ll notice some decline. If you’re looking closely you’ll see a great player. Excellent instincts, plenty of athleticism, and we all know he has the attitude needed to bring it every play. If you’re looking closely you’ll see mediocre stats. If you’re looking closely you’ll see a scheme that makes it hard for edge players to get the sexy stats. And you should be looking closely in 2021. There’s no reason Hughes should be going anywhere.
Jerry Hughes should go down in history as a Bills legend. So look closely. Each year brings his era closer to its ultimate end. The good news is that I still think you have time to appreciate the ride. If you try to stick a fork in him he’ll rip right by you and make you look silly.
- State of the Bills roster: defensive end
- 2020 All-22 Analysis: Bills DE Trent Murphy
- 2020 All-22 Analysis: Bills DE Mario Addison
- 2020 All-22 Analysis: Bills DE Jerry Hughes
- How much does Mario Addison cost in 2021?
- How much does Jerry Hughes cost in 2021?
- Bills don’t have young talent capable of replacing their starting defensive ends
- Free agents that could help the Bills pass rush
- 2021 NFL Draft prospects to add to the pass rush
- Opinion: What we would do at defensive end this offseason