Darius Hodge Looks Hungry For More After Standout Preseason

Darius Hodge Looks Hungry For More After Standout Preseason

Willie Lutz
3 years ago
3 min read
Darius Hodge Looks Hungry For More After Standout Preseason

After drafting three defensive ends in the 2021 NFL Draft, it seemed rather improbable that an undrafted free agent would wind up as the most impressive of the bunch for the Cincinnati Bengals… especially one that was initially signed as a linebacker.

However, after season-ending injuries to the impressive Joseph Ossai and relative unknown Wyatt Hubert, Darius Hodge looks like a diamond pulled from the rough.

Despite going undrafted out of Marshall, Hodge has been one of the most impressive rookies in the entire league this preseason. 

Hodge led all rookies in sacks (3) and quarterback pressures (11). Further, he finished fourth among rookies with an 18 percent pressure rate. 

It would be one thing if his performances and key statistics all came against backup talent. Instead, Hodge earned first-team reps with the defense after Ossai’s season-ending injury in the first match against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Making his debut with the starters in the second preseason game against the Washington Football Team, Hodge went unblocked and crushed quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. While Fitzpatrick barely got the ball away, it allowed the Bengals to make a key third-down stop.

With cut-downs approaching, it seems that Hodge has cemented his place on the Bengals’ 53-man roster to start the year.

Despite Stiff Competition, Darius Hodge Embraced a Challange and Earned Hefty Playing Time

Interestingly, it was an identification from defensive line coach Marion Hobby that kicked Hodge down from linebacker to edge rusher.

“Sometimes coaches start pulling players from other positions and try to get them in their group if they think they can rush,” Hobby said in a conversation with The Enquirer.

“Hodge showed those traits. Every day we evaluate talent in our meetings and talk about what guys can do and what they can’t do. He showed us he could rush the passer.”

It would’ve been easy for Hodge to simply accept the role change as a long-term challenge towards making the roster. After all, Sam Hubbard, Trey Hendrickson, Mike Daniels, Khalid Kareem, plus the rookies in Ossai, Hubert, and Cam Sample seemed like locks ahead of Hodge. 

Now, it seems like Hodge is pushing for real playing time as the rotational third-down pass rusher in Cincinnati. With Ossai on the mend and slated to miss much of 2021, it’s a chance for Hodge to find a long-term landing spot with the Bengals. 

Plus, if his preseason performances are any indicator of his regular-season outlook, Hodge could be in contention for some exciting awards and accolades by the end of his rookie campaign.

While he’s still an undrafted free agent, the future seems bright for the 23-year-old out of Marshall. Certainly, he needs to continue proving his worth to start the year.

It’s a favorable early schedule for Hodge to build on, however, as the Bengals start the year against some weaker offensive lines. Five of their first six opponents ranking in the bottom half of Pro Football Focus’s offensive line rankings for 2021.

Hodge has a chance to make a name for himself in the early stages of the year. Further, it benefits the Bengals for him to continue developing momentum against teams that may struggle to contain his high-motor rushes. 

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