Hardy should start immediately at WR (Photo Source)
Buffalo Bills wide receiver James Hardy has only been a Bill for a little over three days, and already there is an uncommon amount of pressure on his shoulders. As a second-round pick, the ultra-productive Hardy and his 6'5" frame are being counted on to boost Buffalo's scoring potential offensively. That's a tall task for any rookie - even if that rookie happens to be pretty tall himself.
So to get a better perspective on the rookie who is supposed to open up Buffalo's offense, I spoke to John, author of the Indiana blog Hoosier Report, who watched Hardy put up double-digit touchdown totals in each of his three years as a Hoosier. John's first-hand perspective on Hardy serves as an invaluable resource in regards to what we can expect from Hardy in his rookie season. Here is the interview in its entirety; my questions are in bold:
What do you make of Hardy's legal issues in 2006? Do you believe he has put those issues behind him?
- I don't expect Hardy to be a problem. As you know, he was arrested for domestic violence before the 2006 season. Ultimately, those charges were dismissed as part of a pretrial diversion agreement (which is pretty unusual for a domestic situation, which makes me think the prosecution had serious concerns about the case), but he also was suspended for a couple of games early in the 2006 season, but hasn't had a problem since then. Hardy comes from a pretty tough background, but IU's late coach Terry Hoeppner seems to have been something of a father figure to him and he has continued to meet higher standards even after Hep's death. As we all know, even guys with pristine records can be lead astray by NFL riches, but I think Hardy has grown up.
How was Hardy utilized at Indiana - was he more of a vertical threat or did he catch more underneath passes?
- While he isn't completely one-dimensional, certainly Hardy was more of a deep threat than anything else: he averaged 14.2 yards per reception and led the Big Ten with 16 TD receptions. But, as some of the highlight packages have shown, he certainly isn't afraid to go over the middle and because of his size, he is a great asset in red zone situations.
What one single aspect of his game impresses you the most?
- I don't know if it is an aspect of his game, so much, but his value as a college player was that the defense had to account for him on every single play, so even when he wasn't catching the ball he had a positive effect on IU's offense.
How would you grade Hardy as a run blocker? Is he a hard-working blocker, or is he a take-the-play off guy?
- Well, this is where I could pretend to be a great x's and o's guy who watches the game on that level. I never thought that James was any sort of a problem in that regard, although those with a better eye for the game might disagree. He certainly took some criticism at times for games in which he didn't catch many balls (although those games were few and far between), but obviously a WR isn't always in control of such things. Hardy came to IU predominantly as a basketball recruit, although he quite basketball to focus on football after his freshman season. My impression is that he has worked hard to develop his game and I would expect that to continue.
Some "experts" have questioned Hardy's straight-line speed. Did Hardy have trouble getting open in college or running away from defenders, in your opinion?
- I think that's a legitimate criticism, or at least a legitimate question. He was plenty fast enough for college, but even the guys who get paid to analyze these things can't figure out how some guys' games will translate to the NFL. So I'll be interested to see how Hardy plays. On the other hand, even though NFL defenders will be faster, 6-6 is 6-6. Hardy still will have a height advantage on nearly every defender in the league, so even if he isn't as dangerous a deep threat he should be an asset to the Bills' offense.
I'd like to thank John for the honest perspective on Hardy. Be sure to drop by Hoosier Report from time to time to gauge his awe as Hardy tears up the league as a rookie. For even more on Hardy, be sure to check out the Skycap's FanPost on Hardy, which includes a first-person perspective on Hardy's draft-day experience.
I want to touch quickly on one point John made:
...his value as a college player was that the defense had to account for him on every single play, so even when he wasn't catching the ball he had a positive effect on IU's offense.
This is the most important point that John made, folks. At this point in time, Hardy's height alone will have an effect on Buffalo's offense. Will Hardy be a world-beater as a rookie? History says no. But he's finally someone an opposing defense has to at least keep an eye on. Peerless Price could not be that type of player in his second stint in Buffalo. Hardy's mere presence will make things easier between the twenties for Buffalo's best offensive players, specifically Lee Evans and Marshawn Lynch. When we get to the red zone, Hardy becomes an even bigger factor.
Does the kid have some growing up to do, both on and off the field? Probably in both cases. But this was a smart draft pick. I wish I could see the look on Trent Edwards' face when he meets Hardy for the first time.