|Photo by Luke Inman|
During the first week of training camp, Gerald Hodges was impressive in many aspects of the game. He says another year in Mike Zimmer's defense has made all the difference.
Updated:August 3rd, 2015 1:45pm
By: Daniel House
Last season, as injuries plagued the Vikings' linebacker group, Gerald Hodges started to see more work in Mike Zimmer's defensive system. He took advantage of the opportunity and performed at a high level throughout the final four games of the season. According to Pro Football Focus, Hodges earned a +7.5 overall grade over the final four weeks of the season, which ranked third among 4-3 outside linebackers in that span. He also graded average or better in run defense and pass coverage in each game. Heading into the season, Pro Football Focus also named Hodges a "secret superstar."
With another year under his belt in Mike Zimmer's defensive scheme, he is feeling more comfortable with his role.
"It's definitely difficult when [Zimmer] first introduces [defense] to you day one, but the more you get his concepts and the more you get his style of football, the easier it becomes and after while, as you understand his defense, you can move on to trying to dissect the offenses versus the defenses," Hodges explained.
Head coach Mike Zimmer talked about Hodges during his press conference and had high praise for him as he enters his fourth season with the Vikings organization.
"Gerald has done a very nice job of things that I'm asking him to do and I'm hopeful that he will continue to do those things. If he does, then Gerald has a chance to be a very quality NFL football player," Zimmer stated.
Zimmer even gave him a few snaps at middle linebacker during Saturday nights practice. He said it was just "a first introduction" for him at this position. Hodges liked the view from that perspective of the field and is gaining more familiarity with making calls for the defense.
"It felt great [playing MLB]. It felt very natural for me. It felt good going side-to-side coming down the alignment, and I felt good with the calls and everything," Hodges reiterated.
Gerald Hodges has been flying all over the field in the first week of training camp. He is making plays in coverage and run support and is being a vocal communicator on the field. In fact, communication and being a leader to the younger linebackers are areas he is working to improve upon.
"I'm just trying to be a little bit more vocal on the field and not just on the field, but as a leader as well," Hodges replied.
With a young up-and-coming group of linebackers in the fold, Hodges likes the future outlook at the linebacker position. However, he said it will take time for the young rookies to learn the defensive system.
Mike Zimmer said he will find ways to get the best players on the field this season. Even if Hodges might be stacked deep on the depth chart, they will find ways for him to be used on defense.
"I don't care if there's six defensive lineman and one linebacker," laughed Zimmer. "I really don't care how we do it, I just want to get the best guys on the field if I can."