It feels like the NFL regular season goes by in a flash. But the 18 weeks between the final preseason games and the start of the playoffs is a long time. Lots of stuff can happen during that period. For instance, the Giants went from being an afterthought to a legit playoff contender. Wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins knows a thing or two about that.
With a decimated wide receiver room — due to both underperformance and injuries — the Giants took a flyer on Hodgins at the beginning of November by making a waiver claim. You could say it was a leap of faith or a Hail Mary because of what Hodgins had accomplished in the NFL to that point.
He was selected by the Buffalo Bills in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. It’s not like he accrued a bunch of playing time before heading to Big Blue, though. Hodgins had appeared in three games and caught just four passes for 41 yards during his time with Buffalo. But once he joined the Giants, he immediately became a factor in the passing game for quarterback Daniel Jones.
This didn’t happen without some form of prior familiarity, though. Both head coach Brian Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen were with Buffalo at the same time as Hodgins. So, they knew him and potentially had an idea of what he was capable of providing.
His first game included catching two passes for 41 yards, literally doubling his career output. It kept getting better from there. He hasn’t been targeted fewer than four times in a game since Week 12. It culminated during Sunday’s wild-card matchup by leading Giants receivers in targets (nine), catches (eight), and receiving yards (105) while also scoring one touchdown.
Hodgins scored his first career touchdown in Week 13 against the Washington Commanders. Since that moment, he’s gone scoreless in just one game (Week 15 against Washington). The best game of his career before Sunday? That’d be New York’s Christmas Eve loss in Minnesota. He caught eight of 12 targets for 89 yards and a touchdown.
So, Jones went back to the well plenty of times in this rematch, and it worked. In the aftermath of New York’s victory, Hodgins was fully aware of the journey he’d been on to get to this moment:
God brought me a long way man. Without him I wouldn’t even be playing today. Thankful to be apart of this team🙏🏽
— Isaiah Hodgins (@IsaiahHodgins) January 16, 2023
Hodgins going from afterthought to the Giants’ top receiver in their first playoff win in 11 years is a microcosm of this season overall. Nobody gave them a chance to seriously compete for anything this year, and rightfully so. The roster looked like it was in need of a rebuild, Barkley was a little bit of a question mark, and Jones didn’t look like the answer at quarterback in Year 1 of this new regime.
Obviously, none of this was true. The Giants are playing with house money. While they’re heavy underdogs for their divisional-round matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles, there’s nothing to lose for Big Blue because nobody expected them to be where they currently are.
The same could be said about Hodgins. But both he and New York are here, so they might as well go for another upset while they’re at it.