“We’re not big fans of letting good football players walk out of our room and our building,” head coach Sean McDermott said after the Bills extended Jerry Hughes’ contract this offseason.
It’s been six years with the Bills and Hughes has yet to find himself on a Pro Bowl roster. The Bills number one pass rusher seemed like a lock in 2014 when he recorded 54 tackles, 10 sacks and 20 quarterback hits but wasn’t selected to play in Hawaii.
Hughes was 26-years old then and now five seasons later, the team’s lead pass rusher is still looking for his first All-Star nod.
The AFC had four players at defensive end named to the Pro Bowl last season because an injury to J.J. Watt caused him to miss the game. The other selections included Cleveland’s Myles Garrett, Los Angeles Charger Melvin Ingram and Jacksonville’s Calais Campbell as a replacement.
An argument could be made that Hughes could’ve been selected over Ingram. Ingram recorded a higher tackle number (43) to Hughes (37) but they each finished with seven sacks. Hughes also had a higher amount of tackles for loss at 13 to Ingram’s eight and more QB hits with 18 to 16.
According to Pro Football Focus, Hughes led all NFL edge defenders in 2018 in pass rushing productivity with a rating of 10.9. The only defensive player in the league with a higher rating was the Rams’ defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
“He had a ton of (quarterback) hurries. His sack numbers could’ve easily been double digits. He might’ve missed four or five with the consistent pressure that he got,” said Lorenzo Alexander.
Hughes led the Bills in sacks, quarterback hurries, tackles for loss and forced fumbles (3), and his sack total was his highest since the 2014 season.
What made Hughes’ 2018 even more impressive was the amount of double teams he faced.
“Throughout the course of our games you get hit with double teams and different looks that coordinators will draw up. So for me really, I have to fight through all of that,” Hughes said. “I have to not give up, feed off the fans energy that they bring every Sunday and really just try to make plays so we can get our offense on the field. I think that’s really been my focal point and that’s how I try to play the game so we can do our best job to win games.”
The Bills added a top-tier pass-rushing talent with the selection of Ed Oliver. Now with a healthy Trent Murphy opposite him and Shaq Lawson rotating in, Hughes figures to see fewer double teams this season.
If the veteran defensive end can maintain that level of consistent play and tack on a few more sacks, Hughes looks primed for his first career Pro Bowl nod in 2019.