Yep, another one of these kinds of posts. But I after looking around a lot of these types of posts, there was one reason most people left out. And that is Robert Mathis. Robert Mathis' contract is expiring this off-season with several other key veteran players such as Reggie Wayne, and Jeff Saturday. Mathis and Wayne both didn't report to training camp, in hopes of recieving a contract extension. Polian said that they wouldn't get a raise in the beginning of the season, even though they were both playing on a pro-bowl caliber level. Some may argue that they didn't recieve new contracts because Peyton hadnt gotten his yet and the CBA issue. However Polian and the Colts organization in general typically try to stay as young as possible, on both sides of the ball. This led to several key players being released before their careers truly came to an end (Harrison 2 seasons ago). Thats what I believe will happen to Mathis, he will not be re-signed and Jerry Hughes will take over for him.
More after the jump..
No matter how you look at it, Jerry Hughes was not a bust. Although yes, having only 3 tackles with 0 sacks and passes deflected may not be extremely productive, he wasn't shown the field much which is a good thing because if hes on the field, that means our all-pro ends of Freeney and Mathis are out. And yes, first round picks should make an immediate contribution but think about this, Aaron Rodgers was drafted in the first round to take over for Brett Favre, and I dont think any of you would call him a bust (he just won a superbowl MVP). You cannot determine if a player is a bust or not, until 2-3 years pass and that time hasnt past yet.
Jerry Hughes, no matter how you look at it, wasnt drafted to make a contribution. He was drafted to be groomed, and be an eventual replacement for either Mathis or Freeney.
Also, Rodger Saffold isnt much of an improvement over Charlie Johnson (CJ is a better pass-blocker although Rodgers is far better at run blocking). And I doubt Polian would have benched Diem for a rookie even though Ryan Diem has plays horribly this season. Saffold wouldnt have made an immediate contribution this season either.
Some reasons to look foward to Jerry Hughes' play in the future..
Most defensive lineman take 1-3 years to truly develope. Hughes has taken his 1st year in the NFL and should have gotten used to the NFL level by now. If anyone has actually watched any film on him, they will have noticed the following.
- Has a killer speed rush, and with the help of Dwight Freeney (who I think has the best speed rush in the NFL currently), and defensive line coach John Teerlink (I know I spelled that wrong, but he is a top 5 line coach in the NFL currently) can develope it even further. (His speed rush is already NFL-Caliber imo)
-Has enough strength for bull-rushes, and can shed blocks easily, and is a solid tackler. Which should make him solid against the run. (Should bulk up slightly more, but his size is an upgrade from Robert Mathis)
-I remember watching him come in from a play for Freeney in the game against Washington, he should have had a sack but Clint Session got to him a milisecond (he did this with a broken arm too) before Hughes did. Hughes did a dwight freeney-like spin move that should only get even better as he watches the best pass rusher in the NFL work. (This was also against Trent Williams, who was Washington's 1st round draft pick last season who got selected around 25 picks before him. I wouldn't label Hughes a bust when he can completely embaress a top 5 pick (unless the pick is Ryan Leaf or JaMarcuss Russel)
-Reads plays decentlly (not perfectly), and doesnt get fooled on play-actions as much as you would think a rookie would. (This was at the college level games, I dont think hes been in any running-plays this year? If he was, his lack of tackles hides it)
However, I do have some concerns with him..
1. Lack of heart? On the final kick-off against the Jets this season, Hughes was in a position to make a tackle, and although Nate Tripplet was out of his lane, Hughes had a chance to single handedly end the game. However he was merely pushed aside by Antonio Cromartie and who eventually made it to the fourty yard line to set up Nick Folk's game winning FG. Although only seen once, a lack of dedication may be a problem if it keeps occuring.
2. Body Frame? He is slightly less than 6'2 and is around 255 pounds. That is about the same as Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney who both have suceeded at the position, but you have to wonder if his body can make it in the league.
3. Depth Chart? The fact that Keyunta Dawson was above him on the depth chart worries me. Maybe they didnt want to rush him into playing but I dont understand how Dawson could beat him out.
4. Polian? He stated that the Hughes pick was a mistake and that they should have taken Rodger Saffold, but he didnt specify whether Saffold would be a greater need right now, or if Jerry Hughes simply isnt developing. I guess we'll find out next season.
Hughes should only progress as time goes on, and as he accustoms more to the NFL level. He is under the guidance of Hall of fame coach John Teerlink, and is under the wing of the best pass rushing Duo in the NFL. Unless he is rushed into his developement by an injury (which is what happened to Tony Ugoh), I believe many of you with be changing your minds about him being a bust in the near future.