Tonawanda News — ORCHARD PARK — Labeled a bust in Indianapolis, defensive end Jerry Hughes is blossoming in Buffalo.
With 10 sacks, Hughes has already doubled the total he had in his first three seasons with the Colts.
The 2010 first-round pick is making the most of his fresh start after he was acquired by the Bills in an April trade that sent Kelvin Sheppard to Indianapolis. And Hughes has carved out a niche on a defense hoping to add to its franchise record and NFL-best 56 sacks in Sunday’s season finale at New England.
“I feel tremendous,” Hughes said Tuesday. “To be able to get that opportunity here, I felt great. I feel a lot more relaxed and confident in myself.”
After getting off to a slow start while he adjusted to defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s complex and aggressive approach, Hughes is closing with a flourish. He has eight sacks in his past eight games, including one of Buffalo’s season-best seven sacks during a 19-0 win over Miami last weekend.
It was part of a dominating performance in which the Bills (6-9) limited the Dolphins to 103 yards of offense and six first downs.
Hughes is thriving in a situational role that has him on the field for about half of the defensive snaps.
He credits part of his success to playing on a line that presents formidable pass-rushing threats in defensive end Mario Williams and tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus.
The opposing offensive line can’t stop all of them. And the pass-rush threat doesn’t end there, with the Bills occasionally blitzing off the edges with a safety or cornerback.
Add in Mario Williams’ 13 sacks and the 10½ for Kyle Williams, and it marks only the second time Buffalo has had three players with at least 10 sacks. And the Bills are the first NFL team with three since the 2000 Saints.