Isaiah Hodgins Has Been the Giants Unlikely Hero Lately

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Isaiah Hodgins: From Waiver Wire Pickup to Key Cog in Giants Playoff Run

NFL

When the New York Giants season started, their top receivers on the depth chart were Sterling Shepard, David Sills V, and Richie James. Their receiving corps will look pretty different when the Giants take on the Eagles in this weekend’s NFC Divisional Round.

The WR1 on the Giants’ depth chart is Isaiah Hodgins. Darius Slayton and Richie James join Hodgins. Not only was New York’s new WR1 not in the starting lineup when the season started, he wasn’t even on the team.

Struggling to See Playing Time

Hodgins was inactive for the Buffalo Bills for the season’s first four weeks. The Bills took Hodgins out of Oregon State in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Hodgins played just one game during his rookie season with the Bills and saw only four snaps. This season, Hodgins played in just two games for the Bills. Hodgins caught four passes in Week 5 against the Steelers but then saw zero targets in Week 6 before being inactive for the next three games. Hodgins was placed on waivers following Week 9 and claimed by the Giants.

During his junior season at Oregon State in 2019, Hodgins caught 86 passes for 1,171 yards and 13 touchdowns in 11 games for the Beavers. His strong campaign netted second-team all-conference honors.

Still, Hodgins’ draft stick wasn’t very high. NFL.com gave him a 6.14 prospect grade, which equates to a “good backup with potential to develop into a starter.”

That tracked during his time in Buffalo. However, things changed when he got to New York and was reunited with his former offensive coordinator in Buffalo, Brian Daboll.

Reunited with Daboll in the Big Apple

Daboll, who worked with Hodgins with the Bills, obviously saw something in the 24-year-old receiver’s skills that he believed he could unlock in New York. Hodgins’ — the son of former Rams fullback James Hodgins (part of the Greatest Show on Turf era in St. Louis) — was slowly worked into the Giants’ offense.

Hodgins caught two passes for 41 yards in his Giants debut against the Texans in Week 10 and caught his first NFL touchdown in Week 13 against Washington.

It was a slow roll for Hodgins, with his targets never crossing 10 until Week 16 in Minnesota. But when Hodgins was allowed to shine with 12 targets against the Vikings, he caught eight for 89 yards and a touchdown.

Hodgins’ caught 33 passes for 351 yards and four touchdowns in five starts with the Giants this season.

We saw what Brian Daboll saw in Hodgins last weekend in Minnesota. Hodgins has excellent hands, making him a dependable target for Daniel Jones. He caught eight passes for 105 yards and a touchdown in the Giants’ upset victory over the Vikings last week.

Hodgins Is No One-Trick Pony

But to think that Hodgins is strictly a possession receiver would be naive. Just because he doesn’t have the elite speed that many WR1s have these days doesn’t mean he’s a one-trick pony.

Check out Hodgins put a beautiful double move by Hodgins in the Week 16 game in Minnesota. This is a guy that spent his first two years on the practice squad, burning Patrick Peterson one-on-one with skill over speed:

Here’s another one. This one came in last weekend’s Wild Card game. Again, Hodgins makes Patrick Peterson look silly in coverage. Oh, and peep the catch, which was fantastic. The concentration to maintain possession and get the feet down. Chef’s kiss!

Here’s Hodgins getting dirty in the run game, dropping a block on the pull in pick play that led to a Saquon Barkley touchdown:

Hodgins didn’t just have a flash-in-the-pan performance in Minnesota (twice); he’s become a key cog in the Giants’ offense. In his last five games, Hodgins has a 23 percent target share and a 36.6 percent air yard share. Since Week 13, Hodgins has a team-high 66.7 percent target share in the end zone.

Oh, and this week’s matchup looks pretty good for Hodgins. Hodgins will run most of his routes against Eagles corner James Bradberry. Bradberry has allowed a 53.3 percent catch rate and a 127.7 passer rating since Week 14.

Per PFF, the Eagles have played 62 percent of their coverage snaps in zone since Week 14. Hodgins ranks 10th in the NFL in PFFs receiving grade against zone coverage.

If the Giants are going to pull off another upset this weekend, their unlikely new WR1 will play a significant role.

Hodgins said this week that he knew he could play at this level in the NFL, and that he simply needed a shot.

“I knew that I could do this, but a couple months ago I was getting cut from one team. Now I’m in the second round of the playoffs. Sometimes I get that overwhelming feeling of like, ‘man, I’m so blessed to be here.'”



Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is the Lead NFL Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.