On Tuesday, the Buffalo Bills kicked off their three-day mandatory minicamp as a final touch up before the team breaks until training camp. While many are following ongoing storylines such as Josh Allen’s progression, Star Lotulelei’s return and the battle for the No. 2 cornerback job, one player that has seemingly been lost in the shuffle received some recognition from two important members of the organization. Head coach Sean McDermott and Josh Allen both spoke highly of second-year wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins during their Tuesday press conferences.
Hodgins was Buffalo’s sixth-round draft pick a year ago, but spent his rookie season on Injured Reserve with a shoulder injury. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder was highly productive in his three seasons at Oregon State, catching 176 passes for 2,322 yards and 20 touchdowns. Following an 86 catch, 1,171 yard, 13 touchdown showing in his junior season, Hodgins was named second-team All Pac-12 and entered the NFL draft.
Hodgins, along with fellow rookie Gabriel Davis – the team’s 2020 fourth-round choice – were each viewed as promising prospects and both were expected to carve out roles within the Bills’ offense last year. Hodgins’ shoulder injury cost him his rookie season after initially making the final 53-man roster while Davis went on produce as one of the top rookie pass-catchers in the NFL, reeling in 35 passes for 599 yards and seven scores.
Hodgins worked hard to get healthy and the dedication he showed to rehabilitating his shoulder didn’t go unnoticed by coach McDermott.
“I think a guy like Isaiah, like you mentioned, is off to a phenomenal start because of the way he approached the process in the offseason and getting himself healthy,” McDermott told reporters prior to Tuesday’s practice. “Now, here we stand in the last week of offseason practices and I think he’s putting himself in position to make a real move – so that remains to be seen, obviously, with work to be done. But I’m very proud of him, of his mindset and the way he’s gotten himself physically ready to go.”
McDermott wasn’t the only one to take notice of the 22-year old, though. Quarterback Josh Allen offered a quick scouting report on Hodgins after practice, highlighting a skill set that’s rather unique to the Bills’ current wide receiver room.
“He’s a longer bodied guy, he’s surprisingly quick, you know, I’m not talking long speed – he’s got that too,” Allen said. “Just short-area quickness, getting off a jam and getting a good release. He can do a lot of different things. They’ve been moving him between the X and the Z, so he’s got the ability to play multiple positions. You see him high-point a nice thrown ball today, go up and get it, and not everyone has that ability to do that. His body control has been fantastic. Beyond that, he’s a guy that likes to have fun, he has good energy, he’s a fun guy to be around. Never a bad moment for him. He’s enjoying the process. I know he wasn’t super happy with what happened last year with the shoulder, but he’s been here grinding and getting better with our training staff and it will pay dividends when he’s out here on the field.”
Hodgins has a big, long frame, standing 6-foot-4 with 33 1/8-inch arms. He ran a 4.61-second 40-yard dash, which isn’t too spectacular, but he certainly possesses quickness – as evidenced by his 4.12-second short-shuttle – which ranks in the 75th percentile of all receivers, per Mockdraftable.
Buffalo has a crowded depth chart at receiver, as Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, Emmanuel Sanders and Gabriel Davis are locked into jobs. Players like Isaiah McKenzie and rookie Marquez Stevenson will be competing to make the team as returners, leaving a narrow path to the 53-man roster for Hodgins, who will be in direct competition with Jake Kumerow and Duke Williams for roles as true receivers.
But coach McDermott isn’t worried about a logjam at a position group, as the team will look to keep the best 53 players. If that means making sacrifices at one position group and having a surplus at another, it’s something he and general manager Brandon Beane will consider.
“Those things have a way of working themselves out,” McDermott said regarding crowded positions. “When I was around Andy Reid in Philadelphia, he would always tell those guys never to count the numbers (of players) in the lines. Just make the reps count. And that’s the piece that players can control.”
Hodgins definitely needs to prove himself in order to make the team, but he certainly is an attractive option for Buffalo’s offense, particularly in a role as a “big slot,” where his size, quickness and sure hands make him a tricky task for linebackers and safeties over the middle of the field.
The big slot receiver has become more prevalent in the NFL in recent years as teams look to attack the middle of the field with big, athletic players that can stretch the seams and present matchup difficulties for defenders.
Diggs runs this route rather well.
Oregon St. also loved using this blaze out in their flood concept with Hodgins.
This variation would be sick because it's a base concept in the O, but it also plays off of their double posts concept. pic.twitter.com/MbXoBoJ0Lj
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) June 18, 2020
While he doesn’t have the top-end speed to be a real consistent threat on the outside, Hodgins can be a problem from the slot. He’s a smooth runner that can change direction quickly, find the soft spots against zone coverages and position his body to make tough catches.
Gotta love a receiver that is active and always searching for green. Makes things so much easier on QBs. Nice work by Hodgins here. pic.twitter.com/vKN8o7RG5X
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) July 20, 2020
Read Erik Turner’s full breakdown of Isaiah Hodgins HERE
So far, Hodgins has done all that he can to make himself stand out to his head coach and quarterback, but he’ll need to make the most of his opportunities once things heat up in training camp.
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