5. Jerry Hughes
Jerry Hughes’ career with the Bills has had some ups and downs. He was very productive his first two seasons with the team in a 4-3 defense where he averaged almost 10 sacks per year over that span. When Buffalo hired Rex Ryan, they switched to a 3-4 defense which isn’t as good of a fit for Hughes. Last year, he didn’t show up on the stat sheet as much as he would have liked partly because he was getting double-teamed by opponents.
The loss of talented defensive linemen like Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus over the course of Hughes’ tenure in Buffalo is what led to him being on the receiving end of more double teams. This year, with the addition of Star Lotulelei and Trent Murphy, the Bills have added some supporting talent which should free up Hughes to attempt to go for double-digit sacks again after averaging only five sacks the past three seasons.
Despite the fact he is turning 30 before the season starts, he has plenty left in the tank. Last season, in a down year, he had four sacks which still tied him for the team lead with Shaq Lawson. According to FoxSports.com, Hughes’ 10.5 stuffs were the fourth-most in the league which is his most impressive statistic from last year.
To prove he can still dominate a game, Pro Football Focus gave Hughes a 95.6 rating in Week 17 against the Miami Dolphins, which is the second-highest for an edge rusher in a game last season by the website. If you look up his stat sheet from that day you might not be impressed but much of the reason for the grade came from quarterback pressures in which he affected the play without racking up a stat like a sack or a tipped pass.
He’s got two years left on his deal but next season he can be cut without a severe cap penalty. That should be plenty of motivation for Hughes. This is his second year in McDermott’s defense and with improved talent around him, he should get back to his more productive self. Expect Jerry Hughes to make a big difference for the Bills as their fifth-best player in 2018.