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Gonzalez, Brown, and Hughes: How Long is Too Long?

When do the Colts cut their losses?

That question has huge implications for the Colts as they approach the final cuts entering the 2011 NFL season. The Colts need to have their roster down to 53 men by next Sunday, and Anthony Gonzalez, Donald Brown, and Jerry Hughes are all possible casualties.

The difference between these three and the 30 or so other questionable players, is that these three are the Colts last three first round picks, other than Anthony Castonzo, and have shown a potential that warranted that pick in their respective draft class. The Colts have invested time, money, and coveted first round picks into these young men, hoping that they would develop into household names. But, they haven’t. They’ve disappointed, whether that be via injuries, a lack of production, or otherwise, these three players have all been very disappointing for the Colts.

So, when is the time that the Colts must cut their losses with players like this?

With Jerry Hughes the answer is simple, at least, it is in my eyes.

An NFL franchise cannot, or at least, should not, give up on a first round  draft pick after one unfruitful season. Especially not one who has such athletic potential. Hughes was graded as a mid round pick in 2010, and somehow slipped to the Colts at 31.

I’d like to be fair, so I will say that Hughes has been massively disappointing thus far. I was very concerned last year after five weeks when he hadn’t seen the field yet. I’m concerned now that he still isn’t developed to the point where he should be.

But, being honest, the best way for players to develop is with playing time. Hughes hasn’t had that chance. He plays behind two of the best pass rushers in the league from the 4-3 end position. And I know that Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis rotate out quite often, but more often than not, those downs are running downs. Hughes is an edge pass rusher. That’s what he was drafted for. That is supposed to be his niche. He doesn’t get a chance to practice those skills on run downs, he doesn’t get to improve them.

No, he hasn’t developed yet, and no, he may never will. However, in my opinion, it would be a very bad decision by the Colts to cut such a young player who hasn’t had much of a chance to improve on his enormous potential. Especially since Hughes is the only one on the Colts to have the edge rushing skill if Freeney/Mathis go down. He is unique in that sense.

Since, I spent so much time on the subject already, I’ll leave it at that, and just say that Hughes has the least potential to get cut out of the three.

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