For not entering the 2014 season as a starter and still not being considered a starter, Minnesota Vikings linebacker Gerald Hodges sure played plenty.
Hodges ended up playing in 46 percent of the defensive snaps while filling in for Chad Greenway at weakside linebacker and Anthony Barr at strongside linebacker during injuries. Now Hodges is getting a new assignment: a look at middle linebacker.
“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. He’s big, strong and fast. He’s intelligent so, if he can continue on the right path, then he has an opportunity,” head coach Mike Zimmer said.
“He’s working real hard at the communication stuff. He’s been through it before and a lot of these guys, young guys, rookies, second-year guys, a year ago, being through the system right now, they have a much better understanding of that. But it’s really not so much about the communication with Gerald, it’s some other things that I want him to do.”
UNCERTAIN AT SAFETYAlthough Robert Blanton has taken the vast majority of first-team reps at safety opposite Harrison Smith, Zimmer said that’s still an open competition.
“I think we’re still looking to find the best combination. Sometimes with the safeties it’s the communication between the two safeties, communication with the corners,” Zimmer said. “You’re always trying to get the very best athletes in there and I won’t know any of that stuff until we tackle. Like (Antone) Exum is doing some good things and (Shaun) Prater is doing some good things. I know (Andrew) Sendejo can tackle a little bit, but Exum especially and Prater from tackling from a safety position it’s going to be a little bit new for him. I am anxious to see those two guys coming out of from the deep part of the field and make tackles.”
WORKING THE LEFT SIDEThe Vikings plan to stick with Brandon Fusco at left guard, but Zimmer called the communication between him and left tackle Matt Kalil a “work in progress,” especially when it comes communicating who is picking up which defender.
“We’ve run a few (stunts) in the team periods, but after we got done with the 1-on-1’s, that was specifically to get involved in there,” Zimmer said. “So, it’s still a long work in progress and it’s important to be on the same page, make sure that you’re not at different levels with the offensive line, that you don’t allow the defenders to penetrate, and then the communication is big. So, we’ve got a long ways to go there.”