Who the hell is Jerry Hughes? Beats the crap out of me. Although, I was pretty disappointed with myself in not knowing he was a former 1st round pick. What kind of blogger am I? I guess one who doesn't follow the Colts all that much.
I'm pretty sure most readers don't know who he is as well, so, I reached out to Josh Wilson over at Stampede Blue (SB Nation site) to see what type of player we are getting. It is a pretty thorough Q&A that you guys will enjoy.
1) What are his strengths and weaknesses?
1) Jerry Hughes has the skills to be a good pass rusher, he just never seemed to realize that ability in Indianapolis. I don't know why, really. His skill set as a pass rusher looks good on paper - he is fast, athletic, and has a variety of moves to get past lineman. He just could never seem to do that with the Colts. He has struggled against the run and in coverage, but one thing that I will say about him is that he put in a commendable amount of effort last year to learn the Colts' new 3-4 defense.
That said, he has often looked like a guy with no confidence, which is understandable considering all he went through in Indy. Hopefully a change of scenery can get his confidence back and get his motor going again, and with that hopefully he is able to realize the potential that he still has as a good pass rusher.
2) The Bills plan on running a hybrid defense where blitzes are going to occur a number of times during games. Think of the way the Jets run their defense under Rex Ryan. How do you see Hughes fitting in that? Also, is he a DE of a OLB?
Jerry Hughes showed a lot more last year in playing as a 3-4 OLB than he did in his previous two years as a 4-3 DE. Even coming into the draft in 2010, many people expected him to play outside linebacker in the NFL, but the Colts thought he could play as a 4-3 defensive end - an analysis that was dead wrong. Hughes wasn't good last year compared to other standards, but compared to his history he was great. I thought he was one of the most improved players on the Colts - yes, he only recorded 4 sacks, but in his previous two years he had 1 total. That's improvement. As for a 3-4 hybrid defense, I think that Hughes' best fit is indeed as a 3-4 OLB and as a situational pass rusher. I'm confident that is what Mike Pettine and the Bills staff is going to use him as, too. They can't expect him to be an every down player, but as a situational pass rusher he has the potential to be effective.
3) For a former 1st round pick, why didn't Hughes start more? Was the scheme not built best for his attributes?
Why only 7 starts in 3 years for a first round draft pick? The simple answer is because he stunk - bad. His lack of production was so bad that I remember the bust conversation starting just a few games into his career. Why was he so ineffective and bad? I think that you can attribute a lot of it to the scheme fit, yeah. He wasn't fit for the 4-3 defense and it showed. But also a lot of it has to be placed on him. He failed to produce, and even if he was in a defense that didn't fit him he should have been able to at least do something. And he did nothing. At least, nothing good. Most times, you would have to be specifically looking to see if he was on the field because you wouldn't notice it otherwise. As I said, he was much better last year and saw his playing time increase as well (although also because of Dwight Freeney being injured at times).
4) Can you describe his ability to rush the passer?
I described this a little earlier, but he seems to have the skills to be a good pass rusher. For whatever reason, those skills haven't translated to the field. He showed improvement last year, but I doubt he will ever be able to live up to his first round pick label.
5) How do you feel about the Colts trading him?
The overwhelming majority of Colts fans will be dancing and jumping up and down with the news that Jerry Hughes is no longer a Colt. Hughes became the subject of so many jokes and criticisms around town that he was never going to be able to succeed in Indy. Added to that, Jerry Hughes was drafted by Bill Polian and coached by Jim Caldwell, neither of whom are there anymore. I don't think the new regime (GM Ryan Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano) were ever sold on Hughes. I am glad to see the Colts get rid of him, honestly, although in my opinion he was going to be one of the best pass rushers for the team this year, but that speaks much, much more to the state of the Colts pass rush than it does to Jerry Hughes. The Colts did the right thing by trading Hughes away (many Colts fans will say they kept him too long), and I hope that with the change of scenery Hughes is able to turn his career around. I'm not optimistic, however.
A few additional notes about Hughes:
- the most disappointing and concerning part of his play in Indianapolis was not on the defensive side of the ball but rather on special teams. Hughes is a very fast and athletic player, and Bill Polian even said at the time that the Colts expected him to contribute a lot on special teams. He contributed almost nothing. In fact, he often hurt the team with his poor special teams play. There is no reason for a defensive player that fast to not have at least some impact on special teams if given the opportunity. Hughes got the opportunity and did nothing.
- Also, as kind of a lighthearted warning, don't get too optimistic if Hughes does well in the preseason. He has been very good in each of the last two preseasons, leading fans to speculate as to if he finally turned it around. He never did, and when the regular season came about he went back to being almost invisible and terrible. Who knows if he can turn his career around in Buffalo? But just don't get overly optimistic if he lights it up in the preseason. Wait until he consistently does it against starters to begin to wonder about if he has changed.
- I think this trade is pretty even. Hughes has talent but was awful in Indy. The Colts get a player who is probably just a backup linebacker. I'm happy about the team getting rid of Hughes. It was time. Actually, it may have been overdue. He was a bust in Indy in every sense of the word, but he showed improvement last year, giving the hope that he may be able to salvage his career and become a decent pass rusher.