The Indianapolis Colts' Jerry Hughes Is on the Hot Seat

Nate DunlevyGuest ColumnistApril 9, 2012

There hasn't been enough of this out of Hughes.
There hasn't been enough of this out of Hughes.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Welcome to "On The Hot Seat," where all week we'll look at former top draft picks who have struggled and are now fighting for roster spots.

Jerry Hughes was an acclaimed pass-rusher coming out of TCU, and the experts thought he would be an excellent pro. Not only has Hughes been bad, but he has been such a bust for the Colts, that the pick alone greatly contributed to Bill Polian being fired.

When you draft a defensive end in the first round, and he produces 10 tackles and one sack in two years, you are going to get criticism. His numbers are so non-existent that I can't even make a nifty chart for him. There would just be a giant blank spot in the middle of the page signifying his total lack of impact in the NFL.

Hughes has a variety of deficiencies. He's light and is easily pushed around by bigger linemen. He often seems to get lost in plays, unsure of what he's supposed to be doing. Fans have decried his lack of hustle or "fire," though often I feel like those are code words for "this guy is playing poorly."

The Colts had visions of the next Robert Mathis but instead got a poor man's Quentin Coryatt.

Hughes has been so bad that the only thing keeping him on the Colts' roster is that it's cheaper cap-wise to keep him than cut him. That will only save Hughes for so long, however. He has to produce, or the team will be forced to release him despite the ramifications.

Ironically, what saves Hughes in Indianapolis could well be the thing that cost so many other Colts their jobs. Chuck Pagano brings more of a hybrid 3-4 defense than the straight 4-3 the Colts ran in the past. It's entirely possible that Hughes was miscast as an end. In a new scheme with a new staff, he could find a new lease on life.

If Chuck Pagano can convert Hughes to an outside linebacker and take advantage of his once evident skills, the Colts may still see a return on their investment.

Barring a major turn-around, however, Hughes' seat won't just be hot this training camp, it will be on fire.