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Is Isaiah Hodgins a long-term option at WR for New York Giants?

Let’s go the film and see what Hodgins brings to the table

Washington Commanders v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The New York Giants signed wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins off the Buffalo Bills practice squad during their bye week. Hodgins was buried on the depth chart in Buffalo but was elevated by the Bills to the active roster for the Steelers and Chiefs games, where he had a collective four catches for 41 yards.

The 2020 sixth-round draft pick out of Oregon State by Buffalo had familiarity with Brian Daboll’s offense. Daboll’s offense requires players with high football intelligence, individuals who can read defensive leverage, coverage, and understand where to be - spatial awareness is crucial.

Hodgins understands how to attack space and uncover defenses. The 6-foot-4, 209-pound wide receiver combines size and football intellect with deceptively smooth route running. There’s a reason why his snap percentage has increased since the Detroit game.

Hodgins isn’t a speed wide receiver, but he does a solid job creating vertical separation for his size. His 82nd percentile arm length gives Daniel Jones a reliable big-bodied target over the middle of the field, where Hodgins has proven his toughness.

He isn’t the first big-bodied receiver to make an impact with the Giants in Daboll’s offense. No, not Kenny Golladay, unfortunately. During training camp, Collin Johnson seemed to have a firm grasp of Daboll’s playbook, and he appeared to be destined for a role in 11 personnel packages. However, Johnson tore his achilles before the season.

Johnson, Sterling Shepard, Wan’Dale Robinson, and the trade of Kadarius Toney opened an opportunity for others to seize, and Hodgins is in full carpe diem mode.

Hodgins has caught 17 of 20 targets since arriving in New York. He has two receiving touchdowns and another that was called back on a dubious penalty against Dallas. He fumbled the football against Detroit but hasn’t lost a step.

New York doesn’t exactly have the strongest receiving corps in the NFL, but a combination of Darius Slayton and Isaiah Hodgins is, at least, adequate. The two receivers complement each other well.

Slayton possesses the speed, and Hodgins is more of a big-bodied threat, but the latter is also a nuanced route runner who can be deceptive. His impact would have certainly been noticed last week if the Giants’ offensive line could give Daniel Jones time to throw the football.

Here’s a quick breakdown of Isaiah Hodgins’ film.

Deceptive route runner

On a third-and-17, the Giants dial-up mirrored stutter-go routes from Hodgins (top of screen) and Slayton (bottom of screen); both of whom are aligned outside the numbers in a pre-snap Cover-4 look that turns into Cover-3 with both safeties playing the sticks.

Hodgins does an excellent job manipulating James Bradberry (24), who was playing in off coverage. The 24-year-old sold the inside fake well by tilting his body inward with a noticeable head fake and inside step at the top of his route.

His ability to sell the vertical stem off the line of scrimmage, combined with how he throttled down and subsequently exploded out of the fake displayed impressive body control and route manipulation.

He showed similar traits in the previous week on a quick whip for his first career touchdown. Most 6-4 wide receivers that are plucked off of another team’s practice squad don’t possess this type of movement skills and control.

(top of screen)

Hodgins does not earn a target on this release, but he opened Zeck McPhearson’s (27) hips to the outside sell; he tempered his release to close width and then performed a hard outside jab foot with a whip of the head to influence McPhearson to flip his hips, which gave Hodgins easy access to the middle of the field.

(bottom of screen)

Hodgins showed a good delayed release to provide himself more space off the play-action bootleg from Daniel Joens (8). Hodgins slowly released off the line of scrimmage to sell the play-action before he exploded toward the sideline for a quick 5-yard gain on second down.

Smart route runner

(bottom of screen)

On Darius Slayton’s 37-yard grab, Hodgins adjusted his route well from a 3x1 Y-Cross switch-release post-wheel from the No. 1 and No. 2. Hodgins was the original No. 1 receiver. The Eagles appear to be in some sort of 3-Match Robber, but the deep third to the backside was unoccupied, which led to Slayton’s catch.

However, Hodgins found open space beyond the sticks and sat to present a target for Jones. Bradberry bailed press right before the snap, and Avonte Maddox (29) did not follow Richie James (80) on his release. Hodgins simply bent his route around Maddox, sat between the numbers and hash before flowing toward the middle of the field. Rightfully so, Jones saw the blown coverage and found Slayton for a big gain. Hodgins does this often when the defensive leverage allows him to.

(bottom of screen)

A little bit later in the game, on a first-and-ten, the Giants use a similar release combination from a 2x2 set against the Eagles. This time, Maddox followed James, which created a throwing window for Jones to Hodgins. Philadelphia was in a quarters coverage; Darius Slay (2) was off and to the outside with the safety at a depth of about 15 yards. Once Hodgins saw Maddox match James, he quickly bent around the CB and sat, understanding there was plenty of space to operate. He secured the catch and fell forward for a first down.

(bottom of screen)

Hodgins is aligned at the bottom of the zero in “40.” Washington showed a quarters or possible Cover-3 look presnap, but Washington transitioned to an Inverted Cover-2/Tampa-2 Robber where the middle-of-the-field closed safety drops down with the outside CBs assuming deep half responsibilities.

As the outside WR in a 3x1 set, Hodgins diagnosed the coverage to the field side and works away from the flat defender while he expanded his route toward the sideline and sat at the opposite 40-yard-line; Hodgins put himself right into the honey-hole for Jones who was sacked on this third-and-five play.

(top of screen)

The Giants ran an RPO from a reduced stack with Hodings on the stick and Wan’Dale Robinson (17) on the flat. Detroit pinched up to defend the run and the action of Lawrence Cager (83) coming across the formation. After the defender matched Robinson, Hodgins quickly found space and turned to Jones, who eventually found Hodgins. Unfortunately, the play was called back for illegal man downfield. Jones held onto the ball too long; however, it was a nice subtle adjustment by Hodgins to give Jones an open throwing window.

(bottom of screen)

Same concept as the first two plays in this section. Off-leverage, read Cover-4/quarters, bend around the apex defender and sit in space. Hodgins’ peered at the linebacker matching Saquon Barkley (26) in space. He understood the coverage and knew to sit right behind the expanding LB to provide Jones an easy target with plenty of space against that coverage.

(top of screen)

Take what the defense is giving you; here’s another example from the backside of a 3x1 set with the RB releasing to the open side. LB expanded, Hodgins sat, and then displayed another important trait that is evident when going through his tape.


Smart, tough, and dependable is the modus operandi of the Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll New York Giants. Hodgins checks these boxes.

(bottom of screen)

Hodgins is not afraid to go over the middle and take a hit. Against Dallas, he took a tough shot and was sandwiched between two defenders on a deep dig route off of Slayton’s clearout. This was a third-and-one play where Jones trusted Hodgins to make this catch in traffic and win inside against an off-leveraged Trevon Diggs (7). DaRon Bland (26) was cleared out by Slayton, the defender over James matched him to the flat, and the throwing window to Hodgins was created.

(WR top of screen on LOS)

From a reduced bunch, in his first game with the Giants, Hodgins picked up 15 yards after he sold the play-action by engaging in a block before exploding over the middle. The throwing window was tight, and Jones delivered a strike to Hodgins, who took the hit and moved the sticks.

(top of screen)

From a reduced 2x2 set, Hodgins won inside against an off-levetaged Diggs. Hodgins gets open well on in breaking routes at the line of scrimmage, and on deeper dig concepts. This route was more of a shallow dig where Hodgins bent his direction tightly around two underneath defenders who were respecting their run fits off the play-action. Hodgins turned quickly, found the throwing window, and secured the catch through contact.

Line of scrimmage skills

The Giants quick game passing attack is inconsistently used. Quick game is a staple of West Coast and Spread offenses that is designed to get the football out of the quarterback’s hands off simpler reads to one side of the field. Against certain coverages/alignments, receivers who win at the line of scrimmage with a diverse release package is ideal. Hodgins proved the ability to quickly win inside and present a target for his quarterbacks.

(bottom of screen)

In his second game with the Giants, Hodgins was against a press defender while Kafka dialed up a slant-flat combination. It’s called to the boundary and the read is the Will LB, Alex Anzalone (34). As Matt Brieda (31) runs to the flat, Anzalone pursues from the hash to the numbers; this created a throwing window for Jones if Hodgins can successfully win inside at the line of scrimmage. Hodgins fired his feet and backed up Armani Oruwariye (24) just enough to get inside and avoid Anzalone’s traffic to make a catch on second-and-five.

(bottom of screen)

To the field side of a 2x2 set this time, Hodgins beat Darius Slay (2) inside as Maddox worked over the top of Hodgins release. Hodgins did an excellent job defeating the jam of Slay by swiping the contact downward to transition inside with more space. Jones did a good job to read Maddox’s path and deliver a well-placed ball to the upfield shoulder of Hodgins to avoid the underneath LB working outside. Good route adjustment by Hodgins as well.

(bottom of screen)

Against a quarters look, no press, Hodgins won inside on this overtime catch against Washington.

Adjustment in red zone

The combination of spatial awareness and a large catch radius are valuable assets for a receiver in the red zone. Hodgins has caught three touchdowns in the last three weeks, albeit the one below against Dallas was called back on a controversial illegal man downfield penalty:

(top of screen)

New York sold the counter run well with Hodgins as the backside WR in the 3x1 set. Great route concept by Kafka to cause hesitation with the play-action, while clearing out the middle of the field with Slayton, and using James on a quick out to occupy the strong side deep defender. Hodgins, who ran down the 15-yard-line, started angling his route toward the 10-yard-line, once he noticed the reactions of Dallas’ defense. Jones put the ball on his back shoulder, Hodgins did well to adjust and take the football for six.

(top of screen)

New York used 12 personnel with a Hodgins motion tight to the double-Y side just before the snap. Off the play-action, Hodgins blocked down before engaging Slay in his route and finding space to uncover so a flushed Jones can deliver a touchdown. Hodgins saw the path of Kyzir White (43) as Jones rolled to his right. Once White vacated his area, Hodgins promptly replaced him.

Final thoughts

Hodgins possesses a solid ability to deceive cornerbacks at the line of scrimmage and up his route stem; he combines footwork with good bend, burst, and overall movement skills for his size to create enough separation to earn targets. He’s also adept with reading coverages and reacting to defensive movement to be in an optimal position for his quarterback.

Hodgins is having an impact for the Giants down a stretch of games that are unfamiliar for Big Blue - playoff determining December matchups. His presence with the Giants shouldn't be a short-lived stay. However, it also shouldn’t prevent the Giants from investing in the position.

His savvy understanding of the game at just 24 years old, and his frame, should earn him a shot to realistically compete for the roster next year. Hodgins will be an Exclusive Right Free Agent at the end of the season.