Gerald Hodges brings solid run defense and good pass rush

Sep 27, 2015; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Buffalo Bills tight end Charles Clay (85) stiff arm Miami Dolphins player during a game at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 27, 2015; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Buffalo Bills tight end Charles Clay (85) stiff arm Miami Dolphins player during a game at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

The Buffalo Bills announced on Thursday the signing of Gerald Hodges, who could be the perfect replacement for Zach Brown.

When free agency began, the talk was whether or not the Buffalo Bills would agree to terms with Zach Brown. When he joined the Washington Redskins, the talk turned to who would replace the Pro Bowl linebacker.

Fans have been searching for an answer ever since.

With McDermott, the Bills will be running a 4-3 defense and without Zach Brown, the entire linebacker rotation is a question mark. Zach Brown thrived off his coverage ability, which is ultimately what the Bills need right now. Although Hodges doesn’t pride himself in that, there’s no doubt he could strengthen the linebacker group immediately.

Gerald Hodges made a free agent visit to One Bills Drive on Monday and optimism began later in the week when head coach Sean McDermott confirmed that there was a “good chance” the linebacker singed with the Bills.

Hodges returned to Buffalo today as the team announced his signing.

Last season, he had a year similar to Zach Brown. Although his stats didn’t quite match up, the two emerged as starters due to injuries on their respective teams and had career years before hitting the market.

In fact, Pro Football Focus went through and graded their top 10 linebackers set to hit free agency — before free agency began. Where did they rank Brown? No. 2. What about Gerald Hodges? No. 3.

PFF graded Hodges’ 2016 season at 82.4, just 1.7 lower than Brown. Landing third on their list, Hodges beat out Perry Riley, Kevin Minter, Sio Moore, Nick Bellore, Spencer Paysinger, Bruce Carter and Audie Cole. The only two above him on the list were Brown and Dont’a Hightower.

Both of those linebackers signed with teams months ago. The Buffalo Bills got theirs late in free agency. Not too shabby.

Here’s what Pro Football Focus had to say about his 2016 campaign:

"“Hodges has graded well in run defense in his career and has posted solid grades the past two seasons rushing the passer when asked to do so. The concern for the former Penn State Nittany Lion are his inconsistencies in coverage, which will limit his ceiling. While he showed improvement in that area — yielding a career low 87.3 passer rating when targeted — he was also targeted a career-low 24 times in 2016 while still allowing 2 touchdowns.”"

From that analysis, it sounds like Gerald Hodges will be looking at a run for starting weak side linebacker. Sean McDermott — before the Hodges’ signing — stated that Ramon Humber was the starter as of right now, with Preston Brown also in the race.

With Hodges, that spot looks like it could be his. Working opposite Lorenzo Alexander will provide quite a scary pass-rush scene for the Buffalo Bills — in addition to their scary defensive line. If the Bills decide to keep Preston Brown, who could be seen as a cap casualty now, they could rotate him in as a backup to Reggie Ragland at middle linebacker.

More from BuffaLowDown

Personally, I think adding Hodges immediately gives the Bills’ linebackers a boost. I didn’t believe Humber was starter quality and is likely best suited as a backup/depth player. Ragland and Brown can man the inside and Alexander/Hodges on the outside would be hard to get past.

The Buffalo Bills did point out his coverage abilities as being better than those have said in the past. On their official website, they noted that he was a converted safety in college and that “his coverage ability was seen as the strongest attribute in his skill set when the Minnesota Vikings made him a fourth-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.”

If his coverage abilities are as good as the Bills say they are, he could even run into some time at middle linebacker — which is what he played in San Francisco under a 3-4 defense.

In addition to all of that, people have already begun the Zach Brown comparisons. Here’s a look at the two from an athletic point of view:

Height: Hodges (6’1”), Brown (6’1”)

Weight: Hodges (243), Brown (244)

40-yard: Hodges (4.7), Brown (4.5)

Vertical: Hodges (35″), Brown (33″)

Broad: Hodges (119″), Brown (116″)

3-cone: Hodges (7.27), Brown (7.26)

20-yard shuttle: Hodges (4.29), Brown (4.32)

Here’s a different point of view, this one comparing Hodges to Preston Brown:

Overall, I love this signing and think it is one of the better free agent signings of the offseason for Buffalo. Now, it’s just a matter of bringing the hype to the field.

Good luck this offseason, Hodges!

Next: Buffalo Bills release Charles Gaines

Where do you think Gerald Hodges fits on the roster? Leave your thoughts below!