Despite Defensive Change, Jordan Hicks Poised for Big Year in New Defense

Oct 19, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles outside linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) in a game against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles won 27-7. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 19, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles outside linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) in a game against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles won 27-7. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

With new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz at the helm of the Eagles defense, second year inside linebacker Jordan Hicks looks to rebound off a stellar, but shortened, rookie year.

As the 2015 season rolled on into November, the Philadelphia Eagles were still a mystery. Off to a sluggish start, no one knew which direction they were headed towards into the later half of the year. But one thing was certain.

Jordan Hicks was the real deal.

The rookie third round pick out of Texas, Jordan Hicks was viewed by multiple media outlets and ESPN draft head, Mel Kiper Jr. as “a bit of a reach” and a depth pick. The Ohio native, Hicks battled through two consecutive season ending injures, his hip and Achilles respectively. 

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Coming out of high school, Jordan Hicks was a cant miss prospect, winner of the Dick Butkus award, given to the nation’s top high school linebacker, the five star prospect was headed to Texas with worlds of talent and potential.

Fast forward five years later and the man nicknamed “Simba” (paired with his mentor and veteran then-Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans, “Mufasa”) was making a name for himself in the Eagles locker room and during the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys on national television, was cementing his legitimacy as the front runner for the 2015 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award.

As the clock hit 12:48 in the fourth quarter in a week nine match up against rival Dallas, number 58 stood in the Cowboys end zone, carrying with him the football he intercepted 67 yards before.

Jordan Hicks read an out route perfectly and took a Matt Cassel pass to the house, giving Philly a 21-14 lead in what at the time, a must win game for the Eagles.

The national media was getting their first glimpse at what Philadelphia fans had witnessed many weeks in succession prior to that night, a rookie playing quite the opposite, an IQ of a 10-year veteran and a stat line foreign to many defensive third round pick.

With under a minute left, Jordan Hick’s rookie season was over.

A tackle late in the fourth quarter on Dallas’s slot receiver Cole Beasley, saw the end of Hicks during the 2015 season as he walked off to the sideline grabbing his chest area. That image would soon be confirmed with a torn pectoral, cutting Hick’s run at the defensive rookie player of the year short.

The 23 year old through those 8 games he played in show consistent improvement for a young linebacker that had always had promise but could not stay on the field. In those eight games, Jordan Hicks totaled 49 total tackles, one sack and two interceptions.

During Hick’s recovery, the Philadelphia Eagles have been through a whirlwind of changes. Chip Kelly and company were dismissed before season’s end and Eagles president Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman, vice president of football operations for the Eagles have implanted the Andy Reid blueprint by hiring an disciple of his, an unproven but

Jordan Hicks
Jordan Hicks /

promising Doug Pederson. But perhaps the most exciting staff hiring of this off season was not the head coach, yet, the defensive coordinator. Jim Schwartz, the former head coach of the Detroit Lions (2009-2013) and formerly a defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans, Schwartz has excelled as a defensive game planner, propelling the Buffalo defense to the fourth best in the league in terms of total yards allowed per game (312.2).

Schwartz also brings a personality to the defense that has long been absent from the sidelines at the Linc. Schwartz not only brings a personality but he brings a league wide reputation and a identity, something that former Eagles defense coordinator, Billy Davis struggled to do during

his tenure with the Eagles. With his 3-4 scheme, Billy Davis and the defense struggled through his years here and it was widely documented throughout, whether this was a product of the Chip Kelly up-tempo offense, that led to the Eagles defense playing in many more snaps than the league average, one thing is for sure. Jim Schwartz is an upgrade. No question.

The 2014 Buffalo Bills is a perfect team to look at for Schwartz’s resurgence as a feared defensive game planner. With his 4-3 defensive scheme coming to Philadelphia and the revival of the wide 9 defensive technique, Schwartz will put his defensive players in position to make plays and attack, something that has always seemed to fit the roster on the Eagles defense better than the push and pull 3-4 scheme.

Now, how does Jordan Hicks figure in?

Under a Billy Davis defense, the rookie linebacker produced and showed improve consistency and confidence as the season went on before he was sidelined for that torn pectoral.

One perfect comparison for the fans to look at is another current Eagle and former player in Buffalo under Schwartz. Nigel Bradham.

Before Schwartz got to Buffalo, Bradham tallied 28 and 29 solo tackles the two years prior. In 2014, Schwartz’s only year in Buffalo, Bradham’s tackle numbers improved mightily to the tune of 66 solo tackles and 38 assisted tackles, by far his best season of his career.

Expect to see the same kind of production, if not more from Jordan Hicks.

In the 4-3 scheme, the linebackers are able to move with more freedom and can distinguish plays better as the defensive line takes up more of the offensive line, preventing them from getting to the second level of their protections.

With Bennie Logan and Fletcher Cox  slotted in as the two starting defensive tackles for the Eagles, they will provide a nice wall in front of Hicks and middle linebacker which will give him time to snuff out plays, leading to an overall better production.

With Schwartz coming in and Jordan Hicks’ potential as what we saw last year, as the future middle linebacker for the Eagles, this seems like a match made in heaven. Then again, the biggest question mark remains for Hicks.

Can he stay healthy for 16 games?

Its only May, but to think of what Schwartz brings to this defense and what his teachings can do to young players like Jordan Hicks, even coming off an injury, expect Hicks to build off his stellar rookie campaign.

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With a young and exciting defensive core that has the likes of Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McCleod Jr, Cox, and Mychal Kendricks, Hicks has the chance to feed off the rest of the defense and lead the midnight green into late January football.