Skip to main content

Bengals Rookie Darius Hodge is Ready For The Moment

The undrafted rookie free agent burst onto the scene in his first game action for the Bengals.

Darius Hodge may not jump off the page as an NFL-caliber defensive end prospect, but he sure played like one in the Bengals' 19-14 victory over the Buccaneers

The undrafted rookie stands at 6-1, 248 pounds and is listed as a linebacker, but he was anything but the second line of defense on Saturday.

Hodge racked up five quarterback hits, 1.5 sacks, and three tackles, despite only being on the field for 26 snaps (42%). The Bengals have been searching for a diamond in the rough on this defensive front for years. 

The undrafted rookie couldn't have started much better on his path to be that find. More play like we saw on Saturday should get that position changed from linebacker to defensive end quickly.

"He did a nice job," Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said. "The fact that his play continues to do well, he’ll get the reps that he deserves."

Hodge's size left most evaluators wondering if he could last in the rigorous climate of NFL football, but his explosiveness has never been in question. Here are his testing numbers from his Pro Day at Marshall, along with where they would've ranked among defensive ends that were at the 2021 NFL Combine:

40-Yard Dash: 4.67 seconds (4th) 

Three-Cone: 7.18 seconds (7th)

Bench Press: 26 (5th)

Vertical Jump: 38.5 inches (3rd)

All of that potential just needed a little daylight to thrive. Hodge made his mark and got noticed in southern Florida this weekend. The first signs of that daylight had to be seen by a keen eye. Enter Bengals east coast scout Andrew Johnson who noticed Hodge's numbers at the Pro Day.

"Andrew made us aware of him because of that explosion," senior defensive assistant Mark Duffner told after Monday's practice. "He's explosive, tough, he'll compete. Plays hard. He wants to be a good player. That's what you want. When you've got guys that want to work hard, are tough, and they've got explosion, come on with it."

Hodge played in 22 games during his final two seasons with the Thundering Herd. He amassed 13.5 sacks over that span, which led the team. One preseason performance doesn't make Hodge the second coming of Carlos Dunlap, but he showed enough to keep his chances of making the 53-man roster alive.

The Bengals haven't found a late-round or undrafted edge rusher with impact ability much at all over the last 20 years. Since 2001, only 2005 seventh-round pick Jonathan Fanene has come in to make an impact with that distinction. Hodge doesn't have a high bar to clear there. Fanene amassed 13.5 sacks in 71 appearances for Cincinnati.

Hodge is listed as a linebacker, but it's hard to say he's not an edge rusher after he and fellow rookie Joseph Ossai put pressure on the Tampa quarterbacks.

Too many cooks in the defensive end room would be a welcome problem for a Bengals team that's searched for a pass rush since last making the playoffs. The team ranked dead last in the NFL last year with 17 sacks and ranked in the top half of the league just once since finishing 10th in 2015. 

Depth, in particular, has been lacking for this team. A surprise pop from a player like Hodge can help those headaches disappear quickly. Speaking of too many cooks in the kitchen, unfortunately, one of those chefs ahead of Hodge won't be available in the near future.

Ossai had a stellar debut himself—notching three tackles (one for loss), a sack, and two quarterback hits. However, he likely won't get a chance to follow that up for the rest of the preseason after landing on the injury report with a wrist injury he suffered during the third quarter of Saturday's game.

The next man up mentality applies here for Hodge, who should get even more opportunities now that Ossai [a lock to make the team] won't be a part of the edge rotation. The undrafted rookie was the Bengals' best defensive player while totaling just 26 snaps, less than half the average total for a starter in the regular season.

Life is all about opportunity, and Hodge's big break is there for the taking. Time to see what he does for an encore in the nation's capital.

Make sure you bookmark AllBengals for the latest training camp news, including exclusive interviews, highlights and so much more!

You May Also Like:

Watch Highlights From Tuesday's Practice

How Jamal Adams' Contract Impacts Jessie Bates' Negotiations With the Bengals

Watch: Joe Mixon Blocks Ndamukong Suh in Pass Protection

Bengals Rookie OL D'Ante Smith Continues to Push for Starting Job

Training Camp Report: Ja'Marr Chase, Joe Burrow Shine Bright in Practice

Watch: Ja'Marr Chase and the Bengals' Offense Shine in Team Drills

Analyst Believes Bengals' AFC North Rival is a Darkhorse Super Bowl Contender

Two Bengals Make NFL's Top 100 List

Bengals Waive Three Players Following Preseason Win Over Buccaneers

Bengals Fear Joseph Ossai May Have Suffered a Broken Wrist

Snap Count Breakdown From Bengals' Win Over Buccaneers

Evans, Patrick Take Advantage of Opportunity in Debut

Postgame Observations: Bengals Beat Bucs 19-14 in Preseason Opener

Watch: Joseph Ossai and Trey Hendrickson Sack Tom Brady

NFL Insider: The Bengals Are Going to be One of the Most Exciting Teams in the NFL

Film Room: How Taylor & Pollack Can Use Wide Zone to Beat Modern Defenses

Look: Bengals 2021 Jersey Schedule Revealed

The Bengals Don't Have Any Margin For Error When it Comes to Bates' Future

Watch: Ja'Marr Chase, Jessie Bates Make Big Plays During Practice

Jessie Bates Gives Blunt Answer When Asked About New Contract

Three Bengals That Have Flashed Their Potential This Week

Joe Burrow Feeling Comfortable in Pocket After Slow Start

Watch: Highlights of Burrow, the OL and Secondary

Read More

Joe Burrow on AFC North: "We're Coming to Challenge the Division"

Elizabeth Blackburn: "We Have High Expectations" This Season

Report: Jessie Bates and Bengals Not Close to Long-Term Agreement

Duke Tobin on Jackson Carman: "He's Gotta Get Himself in Peak Shape"

Duke Tobin Not Concerned About Ja'Marr Chase Despite Talk of Slow Start

Ricardo Allen: Joe Burrow Reminds Me of Matt Ryan

Bengals Depth Chart Instant Reaction: Jordan Starting, Carman on 3rd Team

LOOK: Bengals Release First Official Depth Chart of 2021

Auden Tate is off to an Impressive Start

Zac Taylor Offers Up Big-Time Praise for D'Ante Smith

Joe Burrow Won't Play in Bengals' First Preseason Game

Joe Burrow Keeping Expectations in Check as Recovery Continues

Joe Mixon Bullish on Bengals' Offense: "Everybody Should Be Excited"

A look at Frank Pollack's Wide Zone Scheme and How it Will Impact Joe Mixon

Watch: Highlights From Wednesday's Practice Include Battle in the Trenches

Vonn Bell Praises Bengals' Defense, Likes What He's Seen From Ja'Marr Chase

Watch: Joe Burrow Connects With Ja'Marr Chase Deep Downfield

Mike Hilton Offers Up Big-Time Praise for Jessie Bates

Camp Notes: Joe Burrow and the Offense Continues to Struggle

Watch Practice Highlights of Jessie Bates, Ja'Marr Chase and More

Bengals Legend: Joe Burrow is "Better Than I Ever Was"

Watch: Video Breakdown from Bengals Training Camp

Watch Highlights from Day 4 of Bengals Training Camp

Watch Highlights from Day 3 of Bengals Training Camp

Film Breakdown: Why Ja'Marr Chase Has a Chance to be Special

Jessie Bates "Super Eager" to Agree to Contract Extension With Bengals

Joe Burrow Wants to Play in Preseason Games

Zero Dark Thirty: Joe Burrow Exits Social Media For Duration of Training Camp

Day One: Three Observations From Bengals Training Camp Practice

Mike Brown Bullish on O-Line: They're Going to "Surprise People"

A Breakdown of the Bengals Toughest Games on the 2021 Schedule

Three Down Look: Bengals Defense Under Pressure to Create Pressure

Joe Burrow Fully Cleared, But Don't Expect to See Him in the Preseason

Watch: Ja'Marr Chase Makes Amazing One-Handed Catch

Ken Anderson Has Big-Time Praise for Joe Burrow

Film Breakdown: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly for Left Tackle Jonah Williams

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly From Vonn Bell's First Season in Stripes

Mike Brown Praises NFL Legend: 'The Greatest QB I Ever Saw Play'

Former NFL Scout Believes Chase and Burrow Will Have Huge Season

Film Breakdown: DJ Reader Should Be an Impact Player for the Bengals

Join the Faces of Who Dey Nation for Thursday Night Football


Be sure to keep it locked on AllBengals all the time!

Subscribe to the AllBengals YouTube channel
Follow AllBengals on Twitter: @AllBengals

Like and follow AllBengals on Facebook