John Hughes Adds Versatility, ‘Bulk Strength’ To Patriots’ Defensive Line


Sep 27, 2016

The New England Patriots went back to the Cleveland Browns well once again Monday, when they signed defensive tackle John Hughes, filling their newly vacant roster spot left by Anthony Johnson’s release.

Hughes is now the 14th (!) player signed by the Patriots who spent time on the 2013 Browns roster, when now-former Patriots exec Michael Lombardi was general manager. Lombardi parted ways with the Patriots this offseason after spending two years as an assistant to the coaching staff. Lombardi and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick remain close.

Here’s the full list of players who were on the 2013 Browns and have since spent time on the Patriots.

RB Dion Lewis
WR Brian Tyms
WR Perez Ashford
WR Reggie Dunn
OL Keavon Milton
OL Braxston Cave
OL Caylin Hauptmann
DE Jabaal Sheard
DE Cam Henderson
DT John Hughes
DT Ishmaa’ily Kitchen
LB Eric Martin
LB Barkevious Mingo
LS Christian Yount

At this point, if you were a member of the 2013 Browns and haven’t spent time with the Patriots, you must be feeling pretty offended.

Lewis, Sheard, Hughes and Mingo remain with the Patriots.

Hughes, who’s 6-foot-2, 320 pounds, adds another big body to the Patriots’ defensive line rotation that already featured Malcom Brown, Alan Branch and rookie Vincent Valentine. Hughes has far more experience and projects as a more consistent run defender than Valentine.

Johnson, who was active in two games before being released, was an interior pass rusher. It’s possible the Patriots will fill his third-down role by using an edge rusher like Sheard and/or Trey Flowers on the inside.

“He’s a pretty experienced defensive lineman,” Belichick said about Hughes on WEEI’s “Dale & Holley With Thornton” on Monday. “We’ll see. We have never coached him, so we’ll put him on here and see how it goes. He’s played end, he’s played tackle. Big guy, relatively young. Has some experience that think might be able to contribute for us. We’ll just have to see how it goes.”

The Browns drafted Hughes, 27, in the third round in 2012 out of Cincinnati. He has 109 tackles, 5.5 sacks, three passes defended and one forced fumbles in four-plus seasons with the Browns. Cleveland released him Sept. 20 after he signed a four-year, $14.4 million contract extension last March.

Here are some notes on Hughes from an NFL scout:

— He’s a versatile backup at defensive tackle, defensive end and nose tackles.

— He has bulk strength at the point of attack and good downfield pursuit.

— He has long arms and good hand placement.

— He has limited pass-rush ability and athleticism with tight hips.

— He has a great motor and character.

Johnson beat out fellow defensive tackles Terrance Knighton and Markus Kuhn, both of whom remain unsigned, for a roster spot this summer. Johnson has practice-squad eligibility, so he could latch back on with the Patriots.

Hughes provides a bigger body that will allow Brown and Branch to reduce their snap count. Hughes also allows the Patriots to pick their spots with Valentine early in his NFL career. Like many other additions to the Patriots’ roster this season, Hughes provides relatively high upside with little to no risk.

Thumbnail photo via Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports Images

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