More Sports:

January 01, 2017

‘Cowboy killer’ Jordan Hicks puts finishing touch on strong, healthy season

Eagles NFL

After playing very well in what was essentially a meaningless football game, Jordan Hicks was asked about the mood in the Eagles locker room following the 27-13 win over the Dallas Cowboys in the team’s season finale.

“Bittersweet, bittersweet,” Hicks said.

“We understand that obviously, we wish were still able to play. We’re nowhere close to where we want to be and we got a lot of improvement to make. But optimistic at the same time, because we have a team on the brink of doing something, making a run. A few pieces here, a few improvements, a few plays — this team could be playing in January.”

Whether or not Hicks’ assessment of the entire team is accurate, one area where the Eagles aren’t in glaring need of major improvement is at middle linebacker. That is entirely due to the play of the 24-year-old Hicks, the one major hit (or even minor hit) in Chip Kelly’s 2015 draft class. He finished the season with 80 tackles and three interceptions.

On Sunday, Hicks intercepted former teammate Mark Sanchez twice:

“I know Mark well,” Hicks said. “Mark threw me a couple, I obviously said ‘thank you’ after the game. We’re good buds, Mark was here for last year and I got to know him real well."

For Hicks, today’s strong performance is part of a larger trend: Through four games in his young career, it’s an understatement to say that he has been a major thorn in the Cowboys’ side. To review…

•    During the first game of his career in which he saw extended time on defense, Hicks sacked Tony Romo and unintentionally broke his collarbone on the play. He would finish that game with seven sacks and a forced fumble.

Due to the heated nature of the rivalry, many Eagles fans feel that injuring Romo is a feather in Hicks’ cap. He doesn’t feel that way, though. Looking back on that play, Hicks said that he didn’t wish any injury on Romo and was happy to see him back on the field today.

“The fact that it happened my first game playing really, it’s been the talk for me at least when I go back [to Texas] and I get questioned about that game,” Hicks said. “You know, it is what it is but at the end of the day, I was glad to see him out there and glad to see him back healthy.”

•    In the return matchup last season at Jerry World, Hicks stepped right in front of Matt Cassel's pass and got a pick-six:

Hicks would later tear his pectoral in that game, in which he finished with seven tackles.

•    Earlier this season, Hicks intercepted Dak Prescott in the red zone on a crucial play that gave the Eagles a great chance to win in Dallas:

That now makes four games against the Cowboys, all of which Hicks made a major impact on. At least against Dallas, he’s batting a thousand. As Hicks alluded to, he played his college football at the University of Texas in the heart of Cowboy country. And he was asked more than once about the play when he was in Texas this past offseason.

“I don’t know, I went to college obviously at Texas so I know that’s what you’re looking for,” Hicks said of his strong play against Dallas. “At the end of the day, I go out there and play. If the ball comes my way, I tell myself if you can’t get a hand on the ball, you can’t drop it. And I’ve been consistent with that.”

A major part of the reason that Hicks fell to the third round of the draft was because of injury concerns, which weren’t exactly quelled when he tore his pectoral last season. This year, he was able to make it through all 16 games, something he’s pleased with.

“Kind of quiet that noise up,” Hicks said of the injury talk. “I believed in myself, I know the coaches believed in me. A lot of injuries that I’ve had, in my opinion, fluke injuries, obviously they’ve happened over and over again. But I made changes. I talked to you guys at the beginning of the season, telling you guys I’m taking it super serious and I’m going to take care of my body this season. And that’s what I did and obviously, it paid off.”

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann