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October 28, 2016

Jordan Hicks game review, with GIFs and stuff

Eagles NFL
102816JordanHicks Chris Szagola/AP

Jordan Hicks is good.

Jordan Hicks was everywhere Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. On the day, he had 11 tackles, one sack, three tackles for loss, one batted pass, one pass breakup, and was credited with two quarterback hits.

Perhaps just as importantly, he stuck like glue in coverage to Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, who had just five catches for 55 yards and no scores on the day. That may sound like a decent day for a tight end, but not when they're targeted 11 times, as Rudolph was.

"He's a smart player; he knows his way to the ball," said Jim Schwartz. "He can execute the scheme. Jordan played one of the best games I've seen all year. I mean, he played at a different level in this game. He was covering and tackling in the open field. His tackle for a loss on that one toss play was a big, big play in the game. He was all over the place and he was putting us in the right calls, too. There's a lot on the middle linebacker and there's nothing that we've thrown at him that he has not been able to handle."

Hicks was drafted to play ILB in Chip Kelly and Billy Davis' 3-4 defense, however, he is a linebacker with size, speed, coverage ability, and outstanding instincts. He can play in any defensive scheme.

The play above that Schwartz was referring to was a loss of six on first down that put the Vikings way behind the chains on a key second quarter drive that ended in a three-and-out. Watch as Hicks quickly diagnoses where the ball is going, and then takes the proper angle to the ball carrier, with speed:

Here's another example of Hicks' speed. He's sitting in zone defense, and once he sees that Bradford is trying to escape pressure, he attacks the quarterback, resulting in a batted pass and near interception. Watch how fast he gets to the quarterback here:

And, of course, as we noted, Hicks' coverage on Rudolph all day was excellent. Like wide receivers, tight ends come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The Redskins' Jordan Reed, for example, is a speedy tight end that most linebackers can't stick with. Rudolph is more of the Jason Witten variety, a bigger tight end at 6'6, 265 pounds, who often uses offensive pass interference his body to get open. Hicks can cover any variety of tight end. Here he absorbs the blow, before quickly recovering and knocking down the throw.

Hicks is a key player for the Eagles this Sunday against the Cowboys. A year ago, he had the biggest play of the game (and maybe the season?) when he picked off Matt Cassel and returned it for a touchdown in the Eagles' win in Dallas.

Against the Cowboys this Sunday, the Eagles will need Hicks to make plays in the run game on the other side of the line of scrimmage to force the Cowboys into obvious passing situations. And then once those obvious passing situations are achieved, Hicks will have coverage responsibilities on Witten and others in the Cowboys' effective short-to-intermediate passing game over the middle.

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