The Falcons made a bevy of offseason acquisitions, completely retooling the defensive side of the ball. This continues my series exploring what each addition brings to the team, moving on to a free agent defender that should have a prominent role in 2023 — Mike Hughes.
Check out any other parts of the series if you’ve missed them!
- What does Jessie Bates bring to the Falcons?
- What does Calais Campbell bring to the Falcons?
- What does David Onyemata bring to the Falcons?
- What does Kaden Elliss bring to the Falcons?
- What does Bud Dupree bring to the Falcons?
- What does Jeff Okudah bring to the Falcons?
After being selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Hughes spent the first three seasons of his career in Minnesota but wound up being trading to Kansas City during the 2021 season. The UCF product played primarily in the slot with the Vikings but kicked outside to the boundary with the Chiefs, so he’s got some positional versatility.
He would go on to sign a free agent deal with the Lions last year, but his time in Detroit was a bag of mixed results. Appearing in 16 games, Hughes would spend time in the slot and eventually on the boundary due to injuries. It certainly wasn’t his best season, but the Falcons felt he showed enough to warrant a two-year deal.
Though he might not be a lockdown cover man, he’s a more than willing tackler and effective as a blitzer — necessary traits for a slot defender. He’s remained healthy over the last two seasons, is only 26 years old, and didn’t break the bank; it makes some sense for the Falcons. Moreover, there is a connection, as Jerry Gray coached Hughes in Minnesota.
Mike Hughes might be the favorite to be the corner slot, but there is plenty of competition for the nickel position. Firstly, there’s a difference between big nickel and regular nickel defenses. Expect a safety — probably Jaylinn Hawkins — to be the fifth defensive back in big nickel packages. In other nickel situations, Hughes will have to compete with the likes of Dee Alford, Cornell Armstrong, and Clark Phillips.
Hughes provides a bit more experience in that scenario, but Falcons staffers have been raving about Alford, so this is a position battle to watch during training camp. Hughes is an experienced and versatile defender that can provide depth in several areas while contributing at a high level on special teams.
Photographer: Bailey Hillesheim/Icon Sportswire