Jerry Hughes returns seems to suggest a focus on defensive tackle

The Houston Texans are bringing back a major name who seems to help the overall health of the defensive line.
Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts
Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

The Houston Texans made a bold move to bolster the defensive line as July creeps into the halfway point. The club brought back Jerry Hughes, returning him to the club for what will be his third season. The fourth all-time leader in sacks for the Buffalo Bills, Hughes has been an asset for the Texans. Despite his age, he's 35, he's proven to be a reliable pass-rusher at his age. This has given the Texans an added boost at the defensive end spot.

He's far from an elite player, but he's still a boarder-line starter even at his age. He's racked up at least 30 tackles in each of the last two seasons, despite starting 14 fewer games in 2023 than he did in 2022. His sacks dropped off, going from nine in his first season with the club to just two in his second, but that could just be due to how potent the team's pass rush was last year.

After all, Jonathan Greenard and Will Anderson Jr. sure did feast on quarterbacks in 2023. So Hughes' return wasn't shocking when you look at his stats. What was, however, was the fact that the team seemed to remake the entire defensive line in the offseason. They got guys like Denico Autry and Danielle Hunter to pair with Anderson. You don't need more than a handful of defensive ends, barring injury, so it seemed like Autry would replace Hughes in the lineup. Plus, you still have Derek Barnett, who will also get reps at defensive end.

Yet, the return of Hughes seems to support the idea that Autry will be moving to defensive tackle for the 2024 season. It also may be a sign that other ends may be trying their hand at the position. Depending on the scheme and the personnel, one could make a case for Hughes to line up inside now and then.

Hughes may have value but he's looking at a roster with a lot of new faces. So he'll have to go out and earn his spot once again. Whether it's inside the defensive line or outside, he's got work to do.