When 4:00 pm on Tuesday hits, Buffalo Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes was set to become a free agent, able to sign with any team. However, early Monday morning, the Bills were able to lock up their valuable pass rusher, to a 5 year deal, worth 45 million dollars, with 20 million of that guaranteed. The Bills will have their dominant defensive line in tact for at least one more season.
Drafted in the first round, 31st overall by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2010 NFL draft, Hughes struggled during his time with the Colts to get on the field, due to the play of pro bowlers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. But in his third season with the Colts, Hughes showed signs of production, despite limited playing time. He finished the season, with 41 tackles, and 4.0 sacks.
In April 2013, the Buffalo Bills made a trade with the Indianapolis Colts. The Bills sent former third rounder Kelvin Sheppard to the Colts, in return for the former first rounder Hughes. This would be the first time in his career where Hughes would finally get the opportunity to start, and he took full advantage of it.
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In 2013, Hughes recorded 10.0 sacks and 46 tackles. This past season, Hughes recorded another double digit sack season, as he accumulated another 10.0 sacks and a career high 53 tackles. Hughes was a big part as to why the Bills had the leagues most dominant defensive line throughout the season. With Hughes now back with Buffalo, alongside Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, and Mario Williams, there is no telling how good this Bills defense will be in 2015.
What makes Hughes such a special player, is his ability to rush the passer. Coming out of TCU, one of Hughes greatest assets was his speed. At the combine, he ran a 4.65 in the 40 yard dash, and continues to show his speed in the NFL. He doesn’t give up on plays, and has multiple effective pass rushing techniques to get to the quarterback.
Another strength that Hughes possesses is his vision. He does a great job at reading opposing tackles which is why he always seems to be around the ball. He also has exceptional footwork, which allows him to often be in the backfield making plays. Hughes is a leader on the field, and will continue to lead by example this coming season.
The downside about Hughes is that he can be a liability against the run at times. For a defensive end, he lacks size, at 6’2” and 254 pounds. He also tends to struggle at times in coverage, as he has stiff hips. If Hughes can improve his play against the run, than the Bills defense will be substantially better against the run.
The Bills took a huge step in the right direction, by re-signing Hughes. He was one of the top players available on the market, and the Bills were able to keep him in Buffalo. There is no question, heading into the 2015 season that Buffalo will have one of the league’s top defenses for the second year in a row. Under Rex Ryan, they will be able to apply pressure from all over the field, as the Bills have the best defensive end tandem in the league, in Hughes and Williams.
With free agency officially set to begin in a little over 24 hours, it will be interesting to see what the Bills elect to do. They still have a few glaring needs on the offensive side of the ball, and will have to address these needs in the coming days. One thing is for sure though, and that is that Jerry Hughes is here for the next five years, and will be a big part of a dominant defense.
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