If Jerry Hughes was feeling uncomfortable about the departure of Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, the team’s dozen spring practices surely cured him of any apprehension.
Hughes picked up where he left off at the end of last season, routinely bolting from his defensive end position around any and every offensive tackle he faced over the past month.
Hughes, who revived his career with 10 sacks last season, arguably was the standout player of the Bills’ spring practices.
The 6-foot-2, 254-pounder envisions an easy transition in the scheme of new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
“He’s brought in his 4-3 scheme, but as far as what I’m doing it’s pretty much the same thing I did last year,” Hughes said. “My hand is in the ground and I’m coming off the edge trying to create pressure to get to the quarterback.”
It must be noted that edge rushers and receivers are the two position groups that are overwhelmingly likely to stand out in spring practice, when players are in jerseys and shorts, with no pads.
Offensive linemen cannot play physical in pass protection and have less ability to get their hands on the pass rusher.
Schwartz acknowledged as much.
“You have to sort of reserve a little bit of judgment until the pads come on,” the coach said. “But he is a very good pass rusher and we can use him in a lot of different roles. He stood up at times, he’s down at times. Sometimes quarterbacks are going to have to evaluate whether he is a linebacker or a defensive end. I don’t think it’s a whole lot different than some of the stuff he was used for last year.
“He can change the game with a pass rush. That’s a big thing in this game, and those guys are very valuable.”
In the final two-minute drill of Wednesday’s practice, Hughes had one sack and looked like he had two others, although the officials decided quarterback EJ Manuel had gotten the ball out of his hands in time. Rookie tackle Seantrel Henderson was struggling to lay a hand on the fifth-year veteran.
“He’s getting a great jump,” center Eric Wood said. “You go against the same offense, he’s doing a great job of playing some tendencies and doing some different things. That’s what good players do. Jerry’s super quick, extremely athletic, and he’s got good hands too, so he’ll take advantage of any misstep by a tackle.”
Hughes, acquired from Indianapolis in the trade that sent Kelvin Sheppard to the Colts last spring, ranked second on the Bills with his 10-sack season last year. He had produced five sacks in his previous three years with the Colts, since coming out of Texas Christian University as a No. 1 draft pick in 2010.
The Bills’ individual-game tickets will go on sale June 26 and June 27, the team announced.
The June 26 date is for online sales and will begin at 9 a.m. The online presale is available to Bills email subscribers, who will be sent an online promotional code that will be required for purchase. To sign up for Bills emails, visit www.buffalobills.com/profile.html.
Individual-game ticket sales will open to the general public on June 27. Season tickets for 2014 remain on sale.