In his career, Jerry Hughes has been a great pass-rusher having multiple seasons with double-digit sacks. He has always been a challenge to block on the edge and always has created pressure. As he gets older his production has gone down a bit, but he is still an elite talent rushing on the outside. In 2020, he was tied for first in pass rush win rate. This means that he was able to beat his blocker one on one in pass-rush scenarios.
Jerry Hughes’ Strengths
Last season, Hughes put up 4.5 sacks, four tackles for loss, and 11 QB hits. These may not look like elite numbers, but he had a pass rush win rate of 29%, tied with Steelers edge rusher T.J. Watt. Hughes is also great with his hands; he is able to bat down passes and create strip-sacks/fumbles. He posted two forced fumbles last year, also tied with Watt. Another strength for Hughes is his hand usage during the rush. If you watch closely, you can see him always using his hands and making sure opposing tackles can’t get theirs on him. Finally, he has a variety of moves he can use to beat a player. One of his best is the spin. Hughes’ spin move has done well for him throughout his career, and he has nearly mastered it. To have a good spin move, the player must force the tackle’s momentum backward and then hit him with a quick change of direction.
Hughes is great at winning off the line but has struggled recently to turn that win into sacks and pressure. Last year he had 25 QB pressures; this is a combination of hurries (12), knockdowns (7), and sacks (4.5). That barely sniffs the top 50 in the NFL. Given how much he is able to win off the line, those numbers should be higher. This means that while his pass rush moves are elite, he is starting to lose his closing speed/athleticism to finish plays.
Rousseau, an athletic monster
This year the Bills drafted athletic powerhouse Gregory Rousseau, a 6’5 265-pound edge rusher out of Miami. He put up outstanding numbers there in one season, 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. Rousseau has an 83-inch wingspan and almost 35-inch-long arms. He has a knack for bringing down opposing players in the backfield and has the ability to play inside during pass-rushing downs. In college Rousseau played a decent amount of inside technique, meaning he was rushing from inside of the tackle.
Where Rousseau needs some work
The main knock against Rousseau is that there isn’t a large sample size of games to look at with him opting out last season. This isn’t a real concern for me because so many players come out of college after one season. A more important concern was his lack of production when rushing outside the tackle; he posted most of his sacks from the inside technique. This is where Jerry Hughes can help.
How Hughes can help
As stated above, Hughes is one of the best pass rushers when it comes to winning off the line, so he knows how to beat those initial blocks off the edge. This is an area that people question about Rousseau. In addition, Rousseau can learn from Hughes’ pass-rushing moves, like the spin, and will be super effective by getting his hands up and into the passing lanes. The spin is a lethal move to have and would suit a player like Rousseau well. Also, with him having such long arms and a massive wingspan, QBs may struggle to find lanes to get their passes off. With Hughes’ help, I believe Rousseau can develop the skills needed to be an elite player.