I want to start this blog by stating that Jerry Hughes is a beast. It was such a lopsided trade when Whaley shipped Kelvin Sheppard for Hughes that Whaley could have been charged with robbery. Let’s take a quick look at his stats since arriving to Buffalo. Starting with back to back 10 sack season in 2013 and 2014, he had a dip in sack production with 5 sacks, 6 sacks, and 4 sacks in the following 3 seasons. However, Rex Ryan ruined everyone on the defensive side when he came to town. Hughes excels in a pass rush role as a 4-3 DE and was finally back where he belonged when Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier came to town.
However, since he was back in his natural 4-3 DE spot, why didn’t we see a spike in his sack production? Under coach McDermott, Hughes has had seasons on 4 sacks, 7 sacks, and 4.5 sacks respectively. First, let’s not forget that Hughes gets a lot of attention from opposing offensive linemen and is game-planned against by opposing offensive coordinators. I will not get into game planning more specifically, since my role here is to discuss injuries and health. So let’s dive in!
Jerry Hughes has actually been an iron man, having played in all 16 games each season since arriving to Buffalo in 2013. In a brutal sport like football, I can’t stress enough how impressive this is. However, just because Hughes has played in every game doesn’t necessarily mean he’s been 100% healthy. Unfortunately for Hughes, he has battled nagging injuries since coming to Buffalo that have lingered on for multiple seasons and have greatly impacted his ability to do what he does best.
During the 2015 season, Hughes played with a nagging wrist injury that required him to have surgery during the offseason. While this seems like a small thing, it’s important because he once again dealt with this injury during the entire 2019 season, when it was reported he was dealing with the injury (specifically torn ligaments) during training camp of 2019.
Hughes played through all 16 regular-season games as well as the Wild Card game with these torn ligaments and had surgery on Jan 20, 2020. Why am I talking about a simple wrist injury that he was able to play through? Any type of hand or wrist injury is significant to a DE, as they are engaging in hand battles every snap, rely on their hands to perform bull rushes or chopping away at the OL’s hands during a speed rush, in addition to their ability to tackle opposing RB’s in the run game and sacking the QB.
Needless to say, an injury to the wrist and ligaments is a huge limitation to pass rushers. The ligaments are important for maintaining balanced movement throughout the wrist and injuring them affects the way the bones in the hand are able to move. Instead of moving together, the motions of the wrist are altered, causing the wrist to become unstable. This then causes severe pain and friction in the wrist joint when using it, and this can severely hamper the DE’s ability to do their job.
The specifics of the surgery Hughes had done this offseason were not released, but it is safe to assume it was an arthroscopic surgery that was done. This is often what is done when you hear an athlete say they “had it cleaned out”. During these procedures, the surgeon can align any fractures present, remove any cysts or ganglions/lumps, remove excessive joint lining that causes inflammation in the wrist, and repair any ligament damage. In Hughes’ case, I would bet that he required manual repair of the ligaments. Since this was done in January, it should no longer be a problem for Hughes this season, as it should be completely healed and rehabbed after 2-3 months.
Here is a picture from Harvard Health to help visualize what torn wrist ligaments look like:
On November 14, 2019, it was reported that Hughes was dealing with a groin injury on the practice report, causing him to be a limited participant in practices for the remainder of the season as this groin injury lingered all the way through the Wildcard loss. On February 20, 2020, Mrs. Hughes posted via Instagram that Jerry Hughes underwent groin surgery by a core muscle specialist at the Vincera Institute in Philadelphia. Again, the specifics of the injury were not released, and neither was the type of surgery that was performed.
Since surgery was required, it is safe to assume that Jerry had a torn muscle in his groin or a sports hernia (torn tissues in the groin), which makes sense that it lingered for the remainder of the season. I don’t need to explain why it is important to recognize the significant impact a groin tear can have on any athlete, regardless of sport or position. A groin tear can significantly inhibit the ability to move at full speed, plant, explode off the line, etc.
Expectations should be Hughes’ return to double-digit sacks. With Hughes getting these injuries taken care of and the Bills’ incredible training and treatment facility, I fully expect Hughes to be at 100% this season and should not experience any lingering effects from these surgeries. A fully healthy Jerry Hughes is an elite player and pass rusher, and we should see improvement along the entire defensive line because of it!
Stay safe and wear a mask everyone!