This is a moment to savor. Middle linebacker Jordan Hicks is doing just that, pouring every ounce of his energy and focus into preparations for Sunday’s playoff game in Chicago (4:40 p.m., NBC). He was injured during last season’s Super Bowl Championship run and so this is the maiden postseason voyage for Hicks, in his fourth Eagles season.
And he’s smiling ear-to-ear at the significance of it all.
“It’s very special, just knowing everything that I’ve personally gone through, the ups and downs the team has had this year, the way we fought, the way we continued to grind,” Hicks said. “It’s special, man. It’s a different feeling already.”
Yeah, the playoffs are different. The intensity grows. The energy around the NovaCare Complex goes up a couple of notches. The true one-game season is here. Hicks is among a group of Eagles, including left tackle Jason Peters and running back Darren Sproles, who missed last season’s marvelous three-game sweep of the postseason. The difference here is that this is the first playoff taste of Hicks’ NFL career, and he’s not going to do anything to squander the experience.
“I’m here to make the most of it,” he said. “I remember the feeling last year, going to the playoffs and not being able to be out there,” Hicks said. “It killed me. Every single game killed me. We were winning and it was awesome, but I wanted to be out there. And so, that always runs through your mind. You always want to stay healthy.”
That’s been the tricky part for Hicks in his Eagles career. The staying healthy part. Hicks is a high-level linebacker in the league. He’s got the skills to be on the field for all three downs. He’s as smart as they come. Hicks does it all. He is a magnet to the football. But the injuries, boy, oh boy, have they been a problem for Hicks.
- Hicks played in eight games as a rookie before suffering a season-ending pectoral muscle injury in a game at Dallas. In those eight games, Hicks was terrific with 54 total tackles, a quarterback sack, two interceptions, three fumbles recovered, one fumble forced, and one touchdown scored.
- In 2016, Hicks played the entire season, all 16 games, and recorded 95 tackles and five interceptions.
- In 2017, a torn Achilles tendon robbed Hicks of his season after playing in only seven games.
- Hicks has played in 12 games this season, missing four games after suffering a calf injury in the loss at New Orleans.
Now healthy, it’s all systems go for Hicks. He has spent his week watching the Bears' offense, one that uses a lot of motion, a lot of deceptions, tons of personnel groupings, and as creative an array of plays as any team in the NFL. There is a lot of information to digest in a short period of time while studying Chicago’s offense. Nobody is enjoying the prep time, the long hours, the hard work, as much as Jordan Hicks.
Team Turnaround has been on a tear since the 48-7 loss at New Orleans, the game in which Hicks injured his calf. It was as low a plane ride home as Hicks can remember. And that nadir makes this time especially rewarding. Everything the Eagles have gone through this season, all of the ups and downs, have led to now.
“That was not good, probably one of the worst defeats that I’ve ever been a part of,” Hicks said. “That one hurt. I think we turned it around because of our leadership, first and foremost. We have a bunch of guys who don’t get caught up in one game, who understand it’s a long season, who knew that all we needed was a foot in the door. We had a lot still to play for. The team rallied around the guys out there on the field and make up their mind that we weren’t going out that way.”
The defense ended the regular season with a shutout win over Washington on Sunday, a confidence-rallying victory. It was a good springboard to the playoffs. Now that he’s in, and he’s on track to make his postseason debut on Sunday, Hicks is fired up. Beyond fired up. Off the charts, really.
Truthfully, the whole building is that way. A new season is here. The Eagles are in the playoffs and they intend to stay around for a while.
“It’s a special feeling. It’s just confidence, you know?” Hicks said. “When you have the mindset when you go out there that they’ve got to come through us, that we’re coming out here and we’re ready to dominate to win this game, when you have that time of confidence, everything changes. I think that’s where we’re at right now.”
For anyone who thinks players don’t care about winning, hey, just look at Jordan Hicks. He’s in the playoffs, and it means everything to him.