Cowboys Grab Another 'Backer

The focus of the Cowboys' 2009 draft has been on the defensive side of the ball, and that continued in the sixth round with the selection of TCU outside linebacker Stephen Hodge (5-11 5/8, 235, 4.58).

Hodge is a hybrid candidate who some think can play safety, as well, at the professional level. Many thought former Dallas safety Roy Williams would be best-used as an undersized outside linebacker, and Hodge fits a similar mold. Despite his size, Hodge is a vicious hitter whose motor runs high from the snap of the ball until the final whistle. He plugs gaps against the run fearlessly, and will chase the ball from sideline to sideline. Against the pass, his strength is running with receivers (tight ends or running backs) and knocking the ball away, as he collected just one interception in his career, during his senior season. He also piled up 183 tackles in four years, including a career-high 81 as a senior while playing for one of the best defenses in the country and getting overshadowed by fellow linebackers Jason Phillips and Robert Henson, who were drafted Sunday by the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins, respectively. How he fits in Dallas might well depend on his contributions on special teams. He can play one of the "up" positions on return teams, and is a fearless cover man on kicking teams. While some players play faster than their 40-yard dash times, the first-team All-Mountain West Conference honoree plays bigger than his size might suggest. His instincts, aggression and lower-body power make him a punishing hitter, and could allow him to be used in some of the same ways Tampa Bay used to use undersized standout linebacker Derrick Brooks.

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