If there is one thing we know about the NFL preseason, it’s to not overreact to one game or play; but it’s difficult to not be excited about Buffalo Bills wideout Isaiah Hodgins, who delivered a breakout performance years in the making in the team’s 27-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday.
The 2020 sixth-round draft pick has had anything but a normal career in Buffalo so far. The Oregon State product has appeared in just one game through the past two seasons, seeing four snaps and recording zero receptions. To be honest, none of this has been of his own doing. Hodgins was placed on IR on September 6th of his rookie year and eventually missed the entire season due to shoulder surgery. The following year he was waived before the start of the season and immediately re-signed to the practice squad. That led to the two-year vet signing a reserved/futures contract at the beginning of this year.
This is a long way to say that his nine-catch, 77-yard outing against the Colts was a long time coming. Bills’ head coach Sean McDermott praised Hodgins’ heart after the game this weekend.
“Two years of injury and fighting back. That resilient nature he has and he’s just a great human being,” McDermott told reporters after the win over Indianapolis. “Great to see him work himself back in the position to make those plays and for him to make those plays and come through for us was outstanding.”
As for the wide receiver, he also embraced the opportunity: “It was surreal,” Hodgins said after the game.” It was a blessing to be out there with my teammates. Got to get a good connection with Matt (Barkley) over there. It was great to get that feeling to catch the ball again. Faced some injuries the past couple of years, so it was great to be out there.”
— Greg Vorse TV (@GregVorse) August 13, 2022
The highlight of the day for Hodgins was also the highlight of the game when he snagged a diving catch in the fourth quarter on route to a Bills’ touchdown. Hodgins beat the Colts’ corner off the line, and his quarterback, Matt Barkley, trusted him to make the spectacular grab along the sideline and put Buffalo inside the five. A healthy Hodgins believes the trust to make that play comes from finally being able to build rapport with his teammates at practice.
“I knew it was a deep route and it was press coverage,” he said. “Me and Matt (Barkley) and Case (Keenum) have been throwing balls like that all camp, so I had a feeling he was coming to me. I had to make sure I had a good release and just dove for the ball. It was a great ball, great placement, and I did my job.” He did his job and sparked a 17-point comeback for the Bills.
— Erik Turner (@ErikJTurner) August 15, 2022
Before injuries derailed his Bills’ career, Hodgins was accustomed to being the go-to guy for his squad. The 6-foot-3 pass catcher was a star at Oregon State, recording 86 catches for 1,171 yards and 13 touchdowns in his final year in Corvallis. While those numbers haven’t translated to Buffalo yet, Hodgins is keeping his head down and avoiding the outside noise when it comes to his spot on the 53-an roster.
“I feel like try to take it day-by-day and just go out there and have fun with my teammates and focus up. I don’t look at camp battles and who is making the team and who is not. I take it day-by-day and go out there and do my best,” said Hodgins.
The release and the catch 😳@IsaiahHodgins is showing off 🔥
— NFL (@NFL) August 13, 2022
The Bills’ have solid depth at WR, so it’s still not a given that Hodgins makes the active roster with Stefon Diggs, Gabe Daivs, and Isaiah McKenzie as locks to be your staring X, Y, and Z receivers, making it an ongoing battle to see who gets the spots behind them. Another way Hodgins can earn favor in the eyes of Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane is to show more roster versatility. Not only did he lead the Bills’ receivers in snaps on Saturday, but he was also on the field for eight snaps in special teams, recording one tackle. Fellow wide receiver Jake Kumerow has earned his jersey through special teams, and adding that feather to his cap would be a solid resume builder for Hodgins. With two preseason games left (Saturday, August 20th vs. Denver and Friday, August 26th at Carolina) snaps at WR and on ST are going to be worth noting for the former Beaver. Regardless of how this plays out, you have to credit the 23-year-old for putting his head down and grinding through a difficult couple of years at One Bills Drive.
Make sure to tune into the Cover 1 Film Room on Tuesday, August 16 to hear about Hodgins’ emergence from the man himself, as the third-year wide receiver will be joining the show to break down his release package among other topics.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) August 15, 2022