This is the final “Believe in…” post. In this series of posts we have looked at some of the most “fringe” players on the Colts, and those who are not widely thought of when you mention the Indianapolis Colts. In previous discussions we looked at the following players:
Today I want to focus on one of the most criticized players on the Indianapolis Colts, and that is 2nd year player Jerry Hughes. Hughes will be tough to analyze for a number of reasons. First and foremost, Hughes was incredibly inactive last season. His main area of seeing action was on special teams. Colts fans across the country refuse to forget Hughes’ missed tackle on New York Jets return man Antonio Cromartie. Which in effect put the Jets in Nick Folk’s range, and many (including myself) believe that last play is what lost the Colts the game. Thinking about that loss still sickens me.
However today I want to discuss the future of Jerry Hughes. Hughes only appeared in 12 games last season and only recorded 6 tackles and no sacks. Colts fans probably don’t remember much from Hughes, considering he was not very visible last season. In Hughes’ defense the defensive line, and especially the DE position, was probably the healthiest position on the injury ridden team last year. Freeney and Mathis are the starters on the Colts, and there are no “ifs, ands, or buts” about that. Due to the health and productivity of Freeney and Mathis, Hughes had little time to shine.
Though he could have surprised many and jumped on the scene as a rookie D lineman and stolen the hearts of many in Indianapolis. He didn’t. But I think that’s ok. And so does president Bill Polian. Polian holds to the belief that you can judge a defensive lineman on their first year. And the biggest transition you will see from a D lineman is from their rookie season to year two.
We saw this clearly with DT Fili Moala. Moala in his rookie season recorded just 5 total tackles. Where in 2010 Moala recorded 20 tackles, and played in 6 more games. Not to mention he took over the starting Job.
Year two is where we are now. Hughes, I think, will make a significant jump, and surprise many. The beauty of the position Hughes is in, is that he does not need to come in and save the position. He is backing up two Pro-Bowl players in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. However, the reason Hughes is so harshly criticized is because he was a first round draft choice.
In college, at TCU, Hughes’ numbers were amazing. He 142 total tackles and in his senior season recorded 58 of those 142. Not to mention he had 28 sacks in his four years of college, recording 15 and 11 in his junior and senior seasons respectively. Dwight Freeney was a 2-year starter at Syracuse recording 17.5 sacks in his senior season and had 34 career sacks. Astounding numbers, yet Hughes is right on his tail. Freeney had a much better and much more promising rookie season recording his second highest sack total of his entire career with 13. The numbers are similar between Freeney and Hughes in college, they differ in the NFL, obviously. However, I still feel like Hughes had little change to prove himself on the field. Maybe there is something going that we don’t know about, or maybe he is just playing behind the two best DE’s in the AFC.
So what can we expect out of Hughes this season? This season expect Hughes’ impact to at least double if not his numbers may actually triple. Expect to see somewhere around 12 tackles and a sack or two. However, in my opinion, the sky is the limit with Hughes in years to come. Freeney is nowhere near retirement. But when he does retire, Hughes will have enough NFL experience under his belt to step in, and be the assassin on the opposite side of Robert Mathis. Expect to see more of Jerry Hughes this season in some pass rush situations, but realize also that we already have our 3rd down pass rush specialists. Hughes was a pick for the future, the future might not be this season, but watch out for him in a couple of years.
I believe in Hughes, do you?
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About the Author
Written by Nick Clason
Huge Colts Fan