Top 5 Edge Rushers In Buffalo Bills History

June 20, 2022
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Here at BillsBeat.com, we continue with our “Top Five” series, having previously ranked the quarterbacks, wide receivers, and the running backs, among other positions.

With the new wave of edge rushers flooding into Buffalo such as Von Miller, AJ Epenesa, Greg Rousseau, etc., it raises the question, who are the best edge rushers in Bills history? Von Miller could absolutely join the list when his tenure in Buffalo is done, however, in this article we will take a look at the top five edge rushers in Buffalo Bills history.


Former Buffalo Bills, Jerry Hughes

5 – Jerry Hughes

Pretty much all Bills fans, including those newer and younger fans, are familiar with Jerry Hughes. For the majority of Hughes’ career, he’s been a starting edge rusher from the defensive end position or linebacker, with the Buffalo Bills. Unfortunately, he did not resign with the team as a free agent in 2022, after spending the last nine seasons with the Bills. Hughes recently signed with the Texans this past month.

During his time in Buffalo, he played 144 games and recorded 53 sacks ranking him fourth on the all-time Bills’ sack list. He recorded ten sacks in 2013 and quickly implemented himself as a key contributor as an edge rusher on the “Cold Front”, along with Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, and Marcell Dareus. A season in which he should’ve made the Pro-Bowl.

Hughes never ended up getting a Pro-Bowl nod but in 2018 he was listed as an alternate. Aside from Kyle Williams, Jerry Hughes was the longest-tenured Bill playing on that 2021 team.

Hughes was always respected by his teammates and his coaches. His passion and leadership on the field were well noted by Bills’ fans and teammates alike. He will always have a place in Bills fan’s hearts for the time he spent with the Bills. Would’ve been nice for Hughes to end his time in Buffalo with a ring, but his legacy will stay with him. He will absolutely go down as a top edge rusher in Bills history.


Former Buffalo Bills, Mario Williams

4 – Mario Williams

Another member from the Bills’ “Cold Front” years was edge rusher Mario Williams. The former first overall pick came over to Buffalo as a free agent signing in 2013 after he signed a six-year, $100 million deal. He left the sunny skies of Houston to come to the intimidating cold of Buffalo. Buffalo definitely got their money’s worth with him as Williams came in and made an immediate impact with his new team.

Since he got to Buffalo in 2012, Williams’ numbers would continue to improve, recording 13.5 sacks in 2013, earning him another Pro Bowl nod and 14.5 in 2014 earning him yet another Pro Bowl nod as an edge rusher and his first All-Pro bid.

Williams finished his Buffalo tenure with 43 total sacks in only 63 games. Giving him the 2nd best sack % in terms of sacks and games played. Had he stayed with the Bills a little longer he would’ve quickly moved up the Bills’ all-time sack list. Given the fact he played 50-75 games less than the other guys on that list, it’s extremely impressive for Williams to be seventh all-time on the team’s leaderboard.

Buffalo let him go after the 2015 season. While Mario’s tenure in Buffalo was relatively short, he left his mark on the Bills and implemented himself as another top edge rusher in Bills’ history.


Buffalo Bills – Phil Hansen

3 – Phil Hansen

Phil Hansen was with the Bills for over a decade and is one of the longest-tenured players the Bills have ever had. Hansen was with the Bills from 1991-to 2001. He played as an edge rusher, alongside Bruce Smith during the Bills’ super bowl years. In his rookie season in 1991, he was nominated to the All-Rookie team. Hansen’s play got better and better as he gained experience and knowledge. It also helps to play opposite of the best edge rusher to ever play the game in Bruce Smith. Hansen became a very vital part of that defense throughout their super bowl years and became one of the leaders on that team after Bruce Smith left in 1999.

After the 1994 season, in which they lost once in the Super Bowl to the Dallas Cowboys, Hansen went on to have one of the best seasons of his career posting 10 sacks, as well as 76 combined tackles. Hansen ranks as #3 on the Bills’ all-time sack leaderboard. He finished his Buffalo tenure with 61.5 sacks through 156 games, giving him a sack percentage of 39% in terms of sacks and games played.

Hansen is still seen as a key contributor and a huge reason for the Bills’ success during the 90s. He’s a huge part of that defense as well and a big reason for the success of Bruce Smith and Darryl Talley. Phil Hanson comes in third on our all-time edge rusher list.


2 – Aaron Schobel

Aaron Schobel was selected in the second round, with the 46th overall pick to the Buffalo Bills in 2001. Schobel played his collegiate career at TCU from 1997 to 2000, Schobel was a key player edge rusher on the Horned Frogs’ defense. He would go on to receive First-team All-Western Athletic Conference honors in 1999 and 2000 and was the WAC Defensive Player of the Year his senior year in 2000 before entering the NFL Draft.

He recorded 6.5 sacks and 43 tackles in his rookie year. He would continue to progress each year he was with the Bills. In 2006 he was sent to his first pro-bowl after recording 14 sacks, which was good for third in the league. He also finished with the sixth most tackles in the league that year as well. Schoebel would get another Pro Bowl honor after the 2007 season at the defensive end position. It was truly an outstanding career for Schobel.

His time with Buffalo came to an end in 2010 when he was released. He did not sign with another team, instead electing to retire. Schobel played for only one team throughout his career, that being the Buffalo Bills.

Schobel ends his career finding himself number two on the Bills’ all-time sack leaderboard. Throughout his time in Buffalo, he accumulated 78 sacks in 133 games. Only behind Hall of Fame defensive end, Bruce Smith who we are going to get to in a minute.

Schobel had big shoes to fill, joining the Bills two years after Bruce Smith left as the Bills were looking for their next dominant edge rusher and Schobel performed about as well as you could for the 46th overall draft pick out of TCU. He had an outstanding career with the Buffalo Bills and was one of the best edge rushers in the entire NFL during his time, which is why Schobel finds himself on this list as the number two best DE in Bills history. Right behind, of course, Bruce Smith.


Buffalo Bills – Bruce Smith

1 – Bruce Smith

Bruce Smith was selected with the 1st overall pick in the 1985 draft out of Virginia Tech. The Bills got their man, and Smith, as we all know, went on to become arguably the best edge rusher of all time. Smith was the first overall pick in the 1985 NFL Draft. He ended his college career at Virginia Tech as the school’s leader in sacks with 46, as well as tackles for loss with 71.

In his rookie season, Smith finished with a respectable 6.5 sacks. In just his second year, he recorded 15 sacks. In the years that followed he would put those numbers to shame and produce double-digit sack numbers in every season with the Bills.

From 1987 to 1997, Smith appeared in 11 Pro Bowls, was named All-Pro 11 times, recorded 161 sacks, over 1,000 combined tackles, and was a part of the Bills’ four Super Bowl appearances. Without Bruce Smith, it’s tough to say if the Bills make those Super Bowls. He was a game-changer on the defensive side of the ball with the ability to make a play with every snap and drop back.

While Bruce Smith never won a ring with the Bills, his legacy will live on forever. He will always be touted as the best edge rusher but the best defensive player the Bills ever had, and he lives on in the hearts of older generation Bills’ fans. With myself being a younger Bills fan, I really wish I could’ve seen Bruce Smith play and rush the passer. Seeing how he gets after the QB and seeing opposing offensive lines fear him. He’s one of the greatest defensive players to ever play the game and will go down as a Bills’ legend.

He ended his career with 171 sacks in 217 games played for the Buffalo Bills. Averaging .78 sacks per game played, which is just an unbelievable number when put into perspective. Bruce Smith also averaged over ten sacks per season.

He is the NFL’s all-time sack leader with 200 career sacks and also holds the NFL record for most seasons with double-digit sacks (13). Those numbers become even more impressive when you consider that Smith spent most of his career playing in a 3-4 scheme as an edge rusher, which is not traditionally geared to yield high sack numbers from the defensive end position.

We could go on and on about Bruce Smith and his accomplishments and what he means to the city of Buffalo, even today. One of the most dominant pass rushers the NFL has ever seen and is our number one edge rusher.

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