Back when Rodney Hudson was playing on the offensive line at Florida State in 2009 and 2010, he learned to run downfield on pass plays. He always figured he could help if a block were needed or the football got loose.
In fact, as Hudson recently related to Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, that was the case in one 2009 game vs. Clemson when the receiver fumbled and Hudson was able to scoop up the ball and advance it.
Now Hudson is the Pro Bowl center for the Oakland Raiders and his new head coach, Jon Gruden, has become a huge fan.
“He’s the best center that I’ve ever coached,” Gruden told Gehlken on Wednesday.
Throughout the first week of Raiders training camp, Hudson has shown time and again that he has a complete grasp of Gruden’s new offensive scheme and is working well with quarterback Derek Carr. While Carr calls the plays – and changes them at the line of scrimmage based on what he sees from the defense -- Hudson is doing the same thing, calling out blocking assignments and schemes as he scans the defense.
Earlier this week, Gruden watched as Hudson reacted correctly to defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s pass-rush calls and yelled out the correct protections.
“When you’re in the pivot (center) and you’re playing against Guenther, a lot of things can change,” said Gruden. “Looks like they’re bringing a blitz to the left, then they’re bringing a blitz to the right. They’re coming up the middle. He made a couple of calls late in the down that were awesome today.
“It’s fun going to work with the battery we have. Derek Carr and Rodney Hudson are showing some really good communication and understanding of our system and what we want to do.”
And, it’s not just Hudson’s IQ and experience that makes him one of the best. Hudson has gone to the Pro Bowl the past two seasons in part because he’s one of the best blockers at his position. In fact, the analytic website Pro Football Focus graded Hudson the NFL’s best pass blocker in the NFL last season. In 592 pass-blocking snaps, Hudson allowed one sack, one hit and one hurry – all while calling protections and having to handle stunts and blitzes coming up the middle. In 2016, Hudson didn’t allow a single sack.
Wrote PFF: “Hudson has been among the best pass-blocking centers for a while now, but his 2017 campaign was outstanding even by his standards.”