The mental attribute that makes Jordan Hicks so special

As we go into week 6, one of the standout players for the Philadelphia Eagles has been one that nobody expected. A player who when drafted most news outlets (AHEM..cough..sorry, had something in my throat) completely overlooked. That man is third round pick Jordan Hicks.

Hicks burst onto the scene after injuries to both Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks saw the Eagles linebacker core take a big hit. After entering the lineup in week 2, Hicks leads the NFL in fumble recoveries, has an Interception, a sack and 27 total tackles…staggering.

At this stage, the 6″1, 231 pounder  is most likely known for his big hits, the three fumble recoveries and his “almost” interception against Drew Brees..but there’s a lot more to the rookie out of Texas than meets the eye.

The key play itself shows just how athletic this three-down linebacker is. In what was supposed to be a blitz bluff, Hicks dropped back into zone and demonstrated his 38 vertical jump by leaping up and swatting the ball down in what almost sent him careering into highlight reels all over the world.

But what makes Hicks so special is his ability to read the game and that was something visible as far back as pre-season. Watch how he changes direction after realising where the open space was going to be and forcing an incredibly long block to carve open a running lane for Mostert.

He also seems to have a vision for reading running routes. Take this play from Sunday’s win against the Saints for instance.

It’s that same vision that lead him to be such a problem for Fitzpatrick when the Eagles faced the Jets earlier this season. Much like his read and adjustment for the “near interception” Hicks scans the eyes of the Quarterback and it’s almost like his body reacts quicker than his mind. By the time any other player has realised that Fitzpatrick is looking at a different read, Hicks has already stormed over to to recognise the screen pass and block the route.

This video for one not only re-enforces our analysis on just how well he can read the game, but demonstrates just how hard he works. In week two against the Cowboys when the pressure was as its greatest, home fans…home opener, biggest rival and a weakened core..he made this play. Hicks storms across the field, breaks one block and slams into the running back with such authority that he knocks his helmet off!

Another example..

This is the quality that Marcus Smith lacked and it’s almost as though Chip has finally found the linebacker he wanted to draft. He may not be the most physically impressive, he may have an injury history that caused him to slide down the board and his combine stats may have been bettered by some…but his football IQ is second to none.

Linebackers are often seen as tough, ruthless and some of the most dangerous players in the NFL..but they also have to be the smartest when it comes to reading the game and it’s incredibly rare to find linebackers who excel in both categories…enter young Jordan Hicks who may have the best instincts of any linebacker in his draft class.

If Hicks continues to progress and shine at this rate, then he may become the second rookie in two years to make a pro bowl in his rookie season. But one things for sure, the people that were sleeping on him have certainly woken up.