Hicks Continues to Emerge for Eagles
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (973espn.com) - The Eagles best rookie was supposed to be first-round receiver Nelson Agholor or perhaps talented second-round defensive back Eric Rowe. It wasn't expected to be the guy most believed Philadelphia reached for in the third round at perhaps the team's deepest position, inside linebacker.
A week after he came off the bench to record seven tackles against the Cowboys, Hicks did his best Luke Kuechly imitation during his first NFL start in North Jersey, registering a team-high 10 tackles, along with a fumble recovery and an interception in the Eagles' 24-17 win over the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.
“I felt really comfortable,” Hicks said. “Having DeMeco (Ryans) next to you makes it that much easier. We’ve got a group of veterans out there who understand the game and who know what they’re doing. The people around me are what makes it easy. I can prepare all I want, but if you’re out there with guys who aren’t that comfortable, it’s going to be tough, so credit to them.”
A natural leader, Hicks can dole out all the credit he wants but Bill Davis' defense has actually improved with the freshman on the field, a rather surprising development considering the reputations of Alonso, Kendricks and Ryans.
Most draft observers had a fourth- or fifth-round grade on Hicks but Kelly was enamored with his smarts and well-rounded skill set, one the coach envisioned could turn the University of Texas product into a three-down linebacker.
“We were really excited about Jordan when we got him,” Kelly said. “We talked about him being a third-down linebacker. You’re starting to see that. He’s got great coverage skills. There’s a calmness to Jordan. I don’t think anything is too big for him.”
Veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins agreed.
"Jordan did a great job of understanding the game plan, controlling traffic, making calls, getting guys lined up," Jenkins said. "Even when we got in a few sticky situations he settled it with confidence."
With Alonso's season in jeopardy due to a partially-torn ACL, Davis' plan of rotating three ILBs seemed dead in the water. Now, it's already back in play with Hicks as an integral part.
“It’s crazy,” said Hicks. “It’s a good way to start things off, and I’m just ready to keep going.”
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973ESPN.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen