Buffalo Bills right outside linebacker Jerry Hughes has been one of the NFL’s biggest success stories this season, and the sad thing is that not many people have heard about his breakout year in his fourth season in the league. After being drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the late first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, Hughes was an unmitigated disaster in his first two seasons in the league and quickly became a big bust for the Colts defense. He didn’t turn things around last year either and was shipped off to the Bills in the offseason for inside linebacker Kelvin Sheppard.
The Bills decision to take a flier on Hughes has certainly paid of big dividends, and new Bills defensive coordinator deserves an awful lot of credit for getting the most out of Hughes, whose first-round talent has come to the forefront in his first season with the Bills. The 25-year-old TCU product has six sacks in his past five games, and he is putting together a massive breakout season that has seemingly come out of nowhere. With Hughes producing at a high level, the Bills have two great edge rushers with high-priced superstar Mario Williams terrorizing offensive tackles on the opposite side of the field.
It’s been remarkable watching Hughes’s ascent, and he’s been a late bloomer to say the least. I’m not exactly sure what Pettine is doing that is getting more out of Hughes, who has also been solid in run defense due to his sure-handed tackling this year. One thing that really impresses me about Hughes’s breakout year is the fact that he’s consistently been very good throughout the season, as he has had only one bad game this year.
Hughes has 38 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and two fumbles forced this season, and he’s finally making good on his status as the 31st overall pick in the draft. It always feels good to watch players like Jerry Hughes turn their careers around, and it’s safe to say he’s in the perfect opportunity. Not only does he have a strong defensive coordinator in Pettine, but there are also great players around him like Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Mario Williams, and Alan Branch. Opponents are also starting to take close note of Hughes, as Tampa Bay Buccaneers left tackle Donald Penn recently praised the former Colt for his edge rushing, pointing to Hughes’s high sack totals over the past month.