Did anyone else notice Jerry Hughes on the sidelines for the first few plays of the game?
For the first 12 games of the season, Jerry Hughes was the Buffalo Bills‘ starting outside linebacker opposite Lorenzo Alexander. However, that wasn’t the case when the Bills hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday.
In the 20-27 loss, Hughes didn’t step on the field until the Steelers’ sixth offensive play. It was a rare sight seeing him on the sidelines to start a game, considering how important he has been to this team’s defense over the past four years. He even found himself in the MVP hunt earlier this season, but has since fallen out of contention.
There has been a lot of speculation on why, but Bills’ fans are still stuck with an unclear answer.
Was it to better rotate our linebackers? Was it due to an altercation he had with Rob Ryan? It seems to be a combination of the two at this point. After the game, a columnist for the Buffalo News stated in one of his articles:
"“Ryan was asked about Jerry Hughes, who was benched to start the game. Ryan claimed he was merely rotating players. It was true, but he conveniently left out the fact Hughes was disciplined for telling off Rob Ryan during a heated exchange last week.”"
Up until Week 13 vs. the Raiders, there was only one game that Jerry Hughes played in less than 81% of the Bills’ defensive snaps — that game was Week 8 vs. the Patriots where he played in 64.7%. It was also a game that Shaq Lawson saw 54.4% of defensive snaps.
In Weeks 9-11, Hughes saw 81%, 83.6% and 82.4% of the team’s snaps. That number dropped to 60.6% (43 snaps) vs. the Raiders. It was his lowest percentage on the season up to that point — until Pittsburgh came into town.
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Before their game vs. the Steelers, Rex Ryan announced that Shaq Lawson would start. However, he didn’t say who he would be replacing. Buffalo had been waiting for the right moment to start rotating their linebackers more effectively and with Lawson impressing the coaches, Pittsburgh seemed like the right time to do it.
Many people were sure that they would start with Hughes and Lawson out there, but we were all shocked when we saw Alexander and Lawson to start the game. That raised the question, what made the Buffalo Bills decide to keep Hughes out of the game?
Lawson would end up seeing 61.3% (46 snaps) of the team’s snaps last week, compared to just 30 snaps (40%) for Jerry Hughes.
If the reasoning was to keep everyone fresh, rested and at their best at all times — which is what the coaching staff said — then the smart choice would be to take Alexander out of the first five plays. After all, Alexander is a big part of our special teams crew — 15 snaps on ST vs. Pittsburgh.
Not to mention, Lorenzo will be 34 years old in close to 6 months.
The point is, Alexander saw a total of 69 snaps last week (54 on defense), Shaq Lawson saw a total of 46 and Hughes saw just 30. If you’re going to put Alexander on special teams, then you should be giving Jerry Hughes and Lawson the same amount of snaps – giving Lorenzo more rest.
On the other hand, if it was to discipline Hughes for a heated discussion with Rob Ryan, then it’s something you should come out and say.
Later, Sal Capaccio would tweet:
Rex is either lying, hiding the truth, being honest or just really likes to screw with fans’ heads. Either way, this is something that I’m sure we would like cleared up. When people aren’t seeing eye to eye or get into an altercation, Bills’ fans should know why.
What do you think the real reasoning was for benching Jerry Hughes to start last week’s game? Leave your comments below!