Rushing the passer opposite Mario Williams last year, Jerry Hughes had a breakout 10-sack season. In defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's scheme Hughes will have just as many opportunities to log quarterback takedowns. The right end position for the Bills in 2014 however, could be an enhanced double threat for left tackles to protect against with Hughes expected to rotate the role with Manny Lawson.
Lawson might not be seen as a prototype pass rusher, but the last time he was a full-time defensive end in college he posted a 10.5 sack season at N.C. State. He's excited to be back in a true pass rusher role again.
"I think I had a little taste of it and I think during minicamp my role was defined," Lawson said. "So now it's about taking it under my wing and running with it."
For Lawson the key to his pass rush is all about his length. A very long-limbed defender his aim is to keep offensive tackles from getting their hands on him when he rushes off the edge.
"My arm length and my wingspan is over seven feet so if I get my hands on you first then you won't be able to touch me," he said. "At that point in time it's whether you use your momentum against you or just bowl you over."
Lawson's pass rushing skill set differs dramatically from that of Hughes, a true speed rusher who likes to bend the corner and slip under and behind edge protectors. Then he works counter moves like a quick spin among others to keep a tackle off balance. Those contrasting skill sets stand to make each of them that much more effective on the field as they rotate in and out for one another.
"When we sub in like that it's going to be great because we'll be able to change it up," Hughes told Buffalobills.com. "One minute you're going to get me and the next minute you're going to get Manny. He's a long, big, strong, physical guy and I do stuff different from the way he does it. Both of us are going to be coming at you and it's going to be fun I can tell you that."
The two defensive linemen liken it to a batter facing two very different pitchers from one inning to the next. In their case the offensive tackle is at the plate and he doesn't know what he's going to get from one pass set to the next.
"Jerry is compact, but he's speed also," said Lawson. "The type of game he brings is his will and hunger and passion. He's going to give offensive tackles a hard time. He's a get in close to your body type guy where I'd rather stay away from you and use my length against you. Having those two skill sets offensive tackles are going to have a tough time. They're going to see one and they might see us both."
"I know how he plays and he knows how I play," said Hughes. "There's one thing we both know about each other from playing together last year. We're going to go out there and we're going to give it our all."
And the Bills are extremely likely to benefit big time as a result.