You remember the talk, on that day in April of 2013. It wasn't about whether or not the trade was a good or a bad one, but rather the talk was all about whether Jerry Hughes was to be considered simply a bust or a mega-bust. That was it, as on April 29, 2013, the Indianapolis Colts traded Hughes to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for Kelvin Sheppard.
And, though Hughes has faced the Colts in the preseason before, on Sunday he will face his former team for the first time in a meaningful game as the Colts travel to Buffalo to take on the Bills. And believe it or not, Hughes might be a disruptive player chasing Andrew Luck.
It's a perfect example of a player needing a change of scenery to reach his potential and produce. The Colts drafted him in the first round of the 2010 draft as a hopeful replacement one day to Dwight Freeney and/or Robert Mathis, but it didn't work out that way. Hughes got plenty of chances in two different systems (though he doesn't think he got a fair chance), but in three seasons (and 40 games) he recorded just 62 tackles, five sacks, and one pass defensed. Drafted as a pass rusher, Hughes managed just five sacks in three seasons - though, to be fair, four of them came in the 2012 season. Since going to the Bills, Hughes has played in 32 games over the past two years, recording 99 tackles, 20 sacks, five forced fumbles, and two passes defensed, recording two double-digit sack seasons. This offseason, the Bills re-signed Hughes to a five-year, $45 million deal with $22 million guaranteed.
So let's fast forward to Sunday. Hughes and the Bills' defense against Andrew Luck and the Colts' offense. No team in the NFL recorded more sacks than the Bills last year, and Hughes was a significant part of that. And with an offensive line that was questionable at times this preseason, it will be a big test for the Colts to try to protect their franchise quarterback - including from former teammate Jerry Hughes.
"He's playing outstanding football," head coach Chuck Pagano said of Hughes on Wednesday. "Outstanding football. The motor is there. He plays every snap. Chases it, pressure on the quarterback, beats you with speed, he can go speed to power. He can drop any tackle in the league in the lap of the quarterback. He's playing the run. They're moving him around. He's a heck of an athlete. He's a great player. He's an outstanding football player."
On Sunday, Hughes will be a big part of one of the league's best defenses as they try to stop one of the league's best offenses. And guess what? He won't be the worst former first round pass rusher drafted by the Colts that takes the field for that game. Hughes has really turned his career around, and Colts fans will get to see that up close in the season-opener (or hopefully not, for Andrew Luck's sake).