Buffalo’s defense as a whole finished second in the league behind only Baltimore in 2018. They also ranked tops in the league against the pass and an impressive eighth in third down defense. Even though they were middle of the pack in sack percentage, those last two rankings speak directly to the kind of defensive front the Bills put on the field each and every week this past season, which in the eyes of Pro Football Focus made Buffalo a top 10 defensive front.
PFF had the Bills ranked eighth in the league among defensive fronts with only Houston (4th) and Jacksonville (2nd) ahead of them among AFC clubs.
Headlining the group was DE Jerry Hughes, who led the team in sacks (7), quarterback hits (18), tackles for loss (13) and forced fumbles (3).
Hughes’ exploits were highlighted by PFF in their assessment of the Bills defensive front.
8. BUFFALO BILLS
Not enough has been made of the year Jerry Hughes just had in Buffalo. He didn’t rack up the sack totals because he only rushed the passer 375 times, but on a per play basis, only Aaron Donald won more often as a pass rusher. His 10.9 pass-rushing productivity was tops among edge defenders.
Hughes teammates were all too aware of the impact the veteran pass rusher had on their games this season despite being double teamed for most of the season. Despite that fact, Lorenzo Alexander believed Hughes’ sack total could’ve been even higher in 2018.
“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 himself felt he got a better handle on that as the season went along. With the new quarterback protection rules instituted this past season, he chose to focus more on stripping the ball out, knowing officials would be more closely scrutinizing the way pass rushers tackled quarterbacks.
“We put a lot of emphasis on (stripping the ball) because we understand how that can change the dynamic of a game,” Hughes said. “So I just tried to just do my job and focus on making the tackle. Don’t try to force a big play. The big plays will come and I’ve kind of learned that playing. Kind of like playing baseball. You can’t go up there swinging for a home run. You just look for contact and that’s what I did and for the most part good things happened.”