Last season, Gerald Hodges met criticism for a lack of focus. This season is a whole new story.
There has never been any doubt as to Hodges’ athletic ability. When Minnesota drafted him in the fourth round in 2013, Hodges was coming off his junior season at Penn State. That year he started all 11 games, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches and ESPN.com and second-team accolades by the media. He also was named a Pro Football Weekly honorable-mention. Hodges led the team with 106 tackles (60 solo) and ranked in the top 15 in the Big Ten in hits (eighth) and sacks (14th tie with 4.5).
At 6’2”, 243 lbs, Hodges is a machine of a linebacker. He is a safety convert, which brings its own set of advantages. However, Hodges didn’t stand out as fans hoped he would as a rookie. In an Aug. 3 interview, he explained to ESPN’s Ben Goessling part of the problem:
“Last year, I don’t think I came in as focused [as I should have been],” Hodges said. “I was coming from the combine. I wasn’t studying my plays in as much detail as I’m doing this year. I think last year I was focusing on too much instead of focusing on my job.”
Coming into the 2014 season, Hodges has made some adjustments—including working to be in better physical shape this offseason. “I just [want] to be as healthy and in shape as I can be,” Hodges said. “I feel as if I’m ready to run around on the field more effectively, able to get to the ball.”
Hodges expressed a confidence in playing the nickel defense, and says his team mentality has improved. “Each day I come in and work hard […] work on improving the team and improving myself as well.”