Over the past month or so, we’ve been taking an in-depth look at each of the Jets’ rookies. We’re now looking at the undrafted free agents, continuing today with offensive lineman Tristen Hoge.
Hoge, whose uncle is former Steelers running back and NFL analyst Merril Hoge, was a highly-sought after four star college recruit who was an all-American and the top center prospect in the nation. He was a two-time Idaho player of the year and started 47 consecutive games.
Having been recruited heavily by several schools including BYU, he eventually opted to attend Notre Dame but was unable to crack the starting rotation with NFL-level talent ahead of him at center, guard and tackle. After a year on the scout team and a redshirt freshman season that saw him play just 24 offensive snaps in six games, he opted to transfer to BYU.
After sitting out the 2017 season in the transfer portal, Hoge finally became a full-time starter in 2018 and started all 13 games at right guard. However, he was limited to five starts in 2019 due to injuries and then also missed time in 2020 due to complications from a Covid-19 infection.
Hoge had mixed results at his pro day but many draft analysts did place a draftable grade on him. However, after he went undrafted the Jets were able to sign him as a priority free agent.
Now let’s take a look at what Hoge brings to the table, divided into categories.
Hoge has decent size and, although his arm length is short, he has a decent wingspan and big hands to help make up for that.
He had mixed results for speed and explosiveness at his pro day but his agility numbers were poor. He did post 29 bench press reps though.
Hoge played exclusively as a right guard at BYU but had competed for the starting center position at Notre Dame having been a center in high school. He played four snaps at center with the Fighting Irish.
He also saw some practice time at tackle, although he didn’t play there, but his short arms would probably mean he’d be forced to play inside at the NFL level anyway.
Hoge was part of an offensive line that did a good job of keeping Zach Wilson clean over the past few years, although critics would suggest they didn’t face many defenses with an elite pass rush.
In 2020, Hoge didn’t allow a sack and only gave up a couple of pressures. He displayed a good ability to recover and use his strength and technique once losing a leverage advantage.
One other thing he seems to do well is to anchor against a bull rush, although again that may be more difficult with the jump to NFL-level talent.
Earlier on in his career, his pass protection numbers were less impressive, although that may have been artificially skewed by the fact he gave up four sacks in five games in 2019 at a time when he was battling injuries.
Hoge let his man get across his face too easily here and was unable to prevent this strip sack that was ultimately returned for a score.
He only gave up two sacks in 13 starts in 2018, which is probably a more accurate reflection of his ability.
Hoge flashes dominance at the point of attack with an ability to carve out running lanes and work well in combination with his linemates.
His strength and pad level are generally good, although there are times where his man is quicker out of his stance than he is, leading to him being initially stood up before he can regroup.
He’s a finisher and has shown he can make blocks on the move and find a target when blocking in space.
Hoge is also effective at the second level and shows an understanding of angles to seal his man off.
BYU wasn’t a team that punched in a ton of short touchdowns but Hoge did his job on such plays. Here’s one where he helped out the right tackle and then peeled off to drive a linebacker into the end zone so the runner could dive in behind him.
Getting out in front of a screen pass wasn’t something Hoge displayed much of in his film as the Cougars seemed to be more effective when they left him in to block and released the left side of the line instead.
Hoge is a balanced lineman with good hand placement and patience. As you can see here, he makes it look easy at the point of attack as he constantly resets his angle to wall off his man on the outside.
He can sometimes have issues with sustaining blocks because he lacks lateral quickness. On this play, he loses leverage on the inside counter and can’t recover.
He may lack the quickness and explosiveness to make a reach block, based on this play where he was unable to work his way to the outside shoulder and got driven back into the backfield.
While Hoge has an aggressive style on the field, his on-field discipline has been good over the past two seasons. After racking up seven penalties in 13 starts in 2018, he has just four in 13 starts over the past two years.
His only two penalties in 2020 were both for holding against Western Kentucky. That included this play where he unnecessarily pulled his man down and this negated a touchdown.
Hoge’s only contributions on special teams have been as a blocker on the placekicking unit. He hasn’t made any mistakes within that role.
Hoge should have a good understanding of the offensive line assignments having played center and practiced at tackle in addition to his main role as a guard.
In pass protection, he’s often employed as the spare man and keeps his head on a swivel to help his linemates within that role.
BYU was a well-organized line that did an excellent job of dealing with stunts and blitz packages and Hoge looked comfortable within that role.
As an older prospect, Hoge presumably has good maturity and is renowned for his hard work and energy. He also displayed good toughness by playing through some injuries over the past few years.
We’ve already documented how he shows some aggressiveness in how he finishes his blocks and you’ll often see him taking his man to the ground or playing to the whistle.
Hoge injured his leg in the 2019 season opener and tried to stay in the lineup as he battled through it over the first five games. However, the decision was made to shut him down for the rest of the year at that point.
In 2020, he was injury free but then contracted Covid-19 which developed into pneumonia, causing him to miss additional time. He returned to the lineup as soon as he could and ended up starting eight games.
Hoge obviously blocked for Wilson at BYU so this would suggest he should be a good scheme fit in the new system the Jets have hand-picked Wilson to run. Indeed the Jets had identified Hoge as someone who should easily be able to transition into their system. If nothing else, his presence gives Wilson a familiar face and that alone might be enough to warrant him a practice squad spot if it helps the rookie passer.
He perhaps lacks the ideal athleticism to be really effective in the Jets’ outside zone system but could work at that and should be a good fit in pass protection.
The Jets may have interest in trying to develop Hoge as a center rather than a guard, since that will bring extra value.
Like any undrafted rookie, Hoge is a long-shot to make the 53-man roster and an even longer shot to make any meaningful contributions in his rookie year. However, he does possess a few traits that give him a chance.
Hoge will need to refine his hand fighting techniques and work on his lateral quickness to improve his chances of making the roster, but has a good opportunity to impress the staff enough to be retained within the system and developed over the next year or two.