Our trek through the list of players who could end up on the Buffalo Bills’ chopping block has led us to Jerry Hughes. There’s not much suspense here so I’ll cut to the chase. The Bills would be incredibly foolish to let Hughes find a new city. It’s true that his sack totals haven’t placed him in the best territory (seven in 2018). As a result, there’s a steady murmur of Hughes being washed up. Don’t buy into that narrative. Hughes is coming off one of his best seasons, even from a statistics standpoint.
Hughes is such a dynamic player we’re gonna make this review a little unorthodox. I asked Twitter to provide me with random play designations by game/quarter/play without knowing which player we’d be looking at. Unfortunately my low follower count and decision to put the request out late at night didn’t get a lot of responses. But a big shout out to Chris Hoffman who gave me three plays to work from (the first three).
Chris is off to a good start with his random play selection. Jerry Hughes is often considered a speed rusher at 6’2” and 254 lbs. Hughes can give a good shove when needed, as David Bakhtiari found out. The result is that Hughes clears out that side of the line.
There’s...slightly less to show on our second random play. That’s some good hustle from Hughes and even though the play appears over, he chooses a good pursuit angle to get to the ball if needed. For now, we’ll use this play as foreshadowing for a later conversation.
The random play selection redeems itself! Attempting to stop a Jacksonville Jaguars touchdown, Hughes walks James O’Shaughnessy pretty far across the field and is very nearly in the lane to prevent the score. O’Shaughnessy isn’t as formidable as Bakhtiari, but this is a heck of a push from Hughes.
Jerry Hughes stops heading toward Aaron Rodgers as soon as he sees the ball about to come out, in the first play selected for deliberate reasons. Hughes then turns back to the ball and weaves through traffic to chase down the receiver. Just like Play 2, Hughes’s hustle and pursuit angles help him make plays all over the field.
Once again, a good shove from Hughes puts him in position to make the play. I hinted above that sacks aren’t the sole indicator of quality for Hughes. From an emotional standpoint, sacks feel a lot cooler than a play like this. Objectively considered, though, this seven-yard tackle for a loss helps the defense out exactly the same as a sack. Hughes had 13 tackles for a loss in 2018, which is tied with the 2014 season as his personal best.
The GIF does the heavy lifting here. That’s a pretty nifty stop-and-go that prevents the lineman from latching onto his jersey. From there it’s all speed and a fast bend to close the deal. If you buy into more subjective measures of a defensive end’s impact, Hughes paired his seven seven sacks with the fifth-most pressures in the NFL with 74.
Always end on a high note I say. Adding on to the mounting pile of Jerry Hughes stats, we close with quarterback hits. Hughes had 18, which is his second highest total ever. His highest year for this metric was the (you guessed it) 2014 season.
I think we all know the conclusion I came to about Jerry Hughes. Statistically, the only season he’s ever been more productive in was 2014. Defensive end impact players are a premium position and the Bills have a good one on the right side. Hughes is still a dynamic playmaker who makes his presence known. With the occasional hothead moment from Hughes being his biggest drawback, there’s no reason to let him walk.