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.

But, Jordan Hicks has stepped in over the past two weeks due to injuries to both Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks, and put up production that might make his more decorated teammates green with envy.

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 jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

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