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Devlin Hodges Analysis, Part 2: Looking at the positives on film

Analyzing Devlin Hodges strengths from his rookie season.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

In part one of this series I focused on a few statistics that really stood out on Devlin Hodges, his fantastic rate of converting short yardage third downs, and also covered his struggles with longer conversions, with TD and INT rates. In the rest of this series we’ll look to find out what his strengths and limitations are on film, how that explains the stats and also what it tells us for the future.

This part is going to cover Hodges best attributes, the things that led to his early season success, and I’m going to show film of those same attributes from late in the season.

It is important to note that until the Buffalo game, every single game Hodges played, the Steelers outscored the opposition while he was the QB.

In those games, Hodges threw 80 passes, with 4 TDs and 2 INTs. He fumbled twice, losing none. He had a QB rating of 103.2, and threw for 8.53 yards per attempt. He didn’t just not kill the Steelers, he played very well, validating Tomlin’s decision to not coach him too much but just let him play.

Progression and Rhythm

Devlin Hodges best attributes showed up the first time he stepped on the field for the Steelers.

Here’s the second pass he threw in the NFL, it was incomplete, but look at how he progresses through the reads and how quickly he gets rid of the ball once he finds his target.

Week 5, 3rd quarter, 5:56, 2nd and 8.

Hodges works through 4 reads in right around 3 seconds, and once he sees Washington, gets the ball there very quickly. That is one of Hodges’ two main assets that led to his early success, the other showed up right away as well, on the very next play, his third pass of the season.

Week 5, 3rd quarter, 5:51, 3rd and 8. Diontae Johnson is the WR to the bottom of the screen.

It stood out at the time because Mason Rudolph was not moving through progressions very quickly at all, and was staring down receivers and getting the ball to them too late, he would wait until he saw them run open, then throw the ball, while Hodges would anticipate the WR being open and get the ball to them in that window. The passing game is highly dependent on timing, and the faster you can find the right receiver and the less time they lose getting the football the better the results. Tom Brady is on the short list of greatest QBs of all time because he reads the defense, finds the right receiver and gets the ball to them more quickly than other QBs. Every fraction of a second counts, and Devlin Hodges, even as a rookie, was frequently ahead of the game.

Let’s look at a few more from later in the season.

Week 13, 3rd quarter, 14:49, 1st and 15. Jaylen Samuels starts in the backfield before leaking out to the bottom, but watch Devlin Hodges.

Cleveland does a great job covering all the receivers, and Hodges moves through his progression and against the well-blocked 4 man rush finds Samuels for a 15 yard gain off a check down. This is again around 3 seconds, and while that’s a good amount of time, consider that the average time to throw or pocket collapse for the Steelers was 2.5 seconds, this wasn’t that far past the average. This is how much time the Steeler QBs were getting and taking to throw this season, Hodges works through the entire field in that 3 seconds.

Week 12, 3rd quarter, 2:24, 1st and 10. Diontae Johnson is the receiver to the bottom of the screen.

Slant routes were a real weapon with Hodges, look at how fast he gets rid of the ball once he looks to Diontae Johnson’s side of the field, and look at where Johnson catches the pass, that’s great execution. Hodges isn’t incredibly accurate, this isn’t Joe Montana, but he gets the ball out quickly and gives his receivers chances to make plays, and that’s impressive for a rookie, especially one from Samford who didn’t make the initial 53 man roster.

Exploiting gaps

Hodges does a really good job of finding the gaps in zones, this again stands in contrast to early season Mason Rudolph who was frequently leading receivers into defenders instead of hitting the gaps in the zones.

Week 5, 4th quarter, 11:34, 1st and 10. JuJu Smith-Schuster is the WR to the top of the screen.

Hodges makes the throw as soon as the dropping LB fails to turn with JuJu, and he places it perfectly. Smith-Schuster should have slowed down in the gap, something he was fantastic at his first two seasons with Ben Roethlisberger. But Hodges pass is right where it should be, and JuJu Smith-Schuster makes the catch.

Week 12, 3rd quarter, 11:22, 2nd and 17. James Washington is the WR to the bottom of the screen.

Here Hodges puts the ball in the gap in front of the deep defenders with enough zip to take away any chance they might have at making a play on the ball.

Like the slant I covered above, Hodges does a great job attacking gaps in zone defense in the middle of the field, and he can deliver a straight line throw downfield with zip on it.

Hodges was getting more comfortable as the season went on, and things were looking good for the Steelers. Against the Bengals, Browns and Cardinals Hodges completed 68.63% of his passes and averaged 9.45 yards per attempt. While it was expected that he would have a harder time against Buffalo, the drop off was incredibly steep, and instead of bouncing back against the Jets, things got worse, and then got worse again against Baltimore.

In the third part of this film series we’ll look at what the Bills, Jets and Ravens did defensively that Hodges couldn’t overcome, and talk about what that might mean for his future.