2018 was always going to be a make-or-break year for Jordan Hicks. Entering his contract year, the former third-round pick had it all to play for. When healthy, Jordan Hicks is one of the most proficient coverage linebackers in the NFL, but the key word was always ‘when’. However, this situation is nothing new to Jordan Hicks.
Throughout his eye-popping college career with the Texas Longhorns, Hicks had to endure a ruptured Achilles, a medical redshirt season and several other bumps and bruises. But when it was all on the line in his final collegiate season, Hicks dominated to prove himself as the pride of Mack Brown’s 2010 recruiting class.
Hicks would start every game of his senior season in 2014, ending ended it with 116 tackles, three and a half sacks and two interceptions. The potential he showed in that season alone presented the world an athlete tapping into his potential after devastating unfortunate events derailed what looked to be a very promising collegiate career in it’s entirety.
Chip Kelly would take a chance on Jordan Hicks, knowing fully well what kind of player he could become and it didn’t take long for him to make an impact either. In his first career sack, he broke QB Tony Romo’s shoulder and forced a fumble that would be recovered by DT Fletcher Cox. He would later solidify his legend that game with a pick-6 that would prove to be enough to help win the game. Despite his great play, Hicks would suffer a season ending injury just a few drives later, tearing his pectoral muscle and starting the dreaded durability conversation.
One year and a change of scheme later however and Jordan Hicks took his game to a whole new level. Playing in all 16 games, Hicks registered 85 tackles, second only to his new running-mate, Nigel Bradham. The duo looked set to emerge as one of the league’s most lethal linebacker tandems with ease. Hicks brought the athleticism and coverage prowess, while Bradham’s hard-hitting nature helped set the tone for the group.
One year later, Hicks suffered another season-ending injury. To this date, he’s played just one complete season, leaving a world of uncertainty over his long-term future, much as the situation dictated during his senior season in College. But just like he did then, Hicks is shining like he never has before.
After six games, Hicks currently leads the team in tackles (50), has 1.5 sacks, a fumble recovery and 4 passes defensed. Most recently, he forced a pass to be tipped into the air and fall into the well-placed hands of Kamu Grugier-Hill in Thursday night’s win over the New York Giants.
A lot of people will view the season Hicks is having and call it ‘underwhelming’ because he isn’t picking off passes every week or making highlight plays. But he’s doing exactly what he’s expected to do, which is hold down the middle of the field, eliminate threats underneath, blow up the run and more importantly lead his defense just as DeMeco Ryans did before him.
In a key 2nd & 5 on Thursday night, Hicks pointed out an unbalanced formation to his pass-rushers pre-snap. Derek Barnett then took that onboard and flew past TE Scott Simonson and forced a huge pressure that resulted in an incompletion. That’s what Hicks brings to the table each and every play.
It remains uncertain whether or not Hicks will return to the franchise after his rookie contract expires. However, what is clear is you should never count him out. When the scouting world had moved on to more reliable linebackers to praise in College, Hicks responded by dominating his senior season, bursting into the NFL and becoming the first linebacker since Jack Ham to record 11 or more takeaways in his first 24 games. He also became the fifth linebacker in NFL history to have seven interceptions in his first two seasons.
Now, with injuries holding him down again and his back to the wall, Hicks is leading the team in tackles and is set to fly past his career high of 85. The question now becomes, can he finish what he started?
Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports