- The ball-hawking middle linebacker wants to get healthy and stay that way for the Eagles in 2018. An impact player, Jordan Hicks has had injuries mar two of his three NFL seasons.
Jordan Hicks really hasn't talked much about coming back from an Achilles tendon tear, instead spending his time rehabbing the injury, focusing on his day-to-day tasks, and daydreaming about what's ahead for him and the Eagles' defense in 2018.
"I do it all the time," Hicks said, smiling. "I think about what's to come, and I'm excited. It's been a long time for me. I want to be out there with my guys. I am coming back, and I am coming back with a vengeance. I'm hungry and I'm excited."
Instead of feeling any sense of frustration over the injury, suffered last season two snaps into the October 23 victory over Washington at Lincoln Financial Field, Hicks has kept a positive attitude. He has attacked his rehabilitation from an injury that used to be, way back when, a career-threatening concern. Now, Hicks is aiming for the opener on September 6 against Atlanta.
"I'm feeling good," he said. "I've said this all along: I'm ahead of schedule. It's coming along great. At the same time, we've got a little bit of time here. We're being smart about it. No need to rush anything. I want to get out there when I'm ready and stay out there."
Stay out there.
It's what everybody wants with Hicks, a three-down linebacker and the brain in the central nervous system that is the Eagles' defense. A torn pectoral muscle in a game at Dallas robbed Hicks of eight games in his rookie season and, after a 16-game, down-in, down-out season of 2016 when Hicks was one of the best middle linebackers in the NFL, he went down again during the Monday night win over Washington last year.
One of the most valuable players for Jim Schwartz because of his ability to play all three downs, Hicks faces a crucial season. Having him out there all season makes the Eagles' defense substantially better.
"Jordan does it all for the defense. He's a big part of what we do," Schwartz said of Hicks. "He's in position and he's around the football. He's just a good football player."
Training Camp at the NovaCare Complex begins in a month for the Eagles. Hicks is excited to take part after missing the second half of last year as well as the march to Super Bowl LII. It's his time, and he knows it.
"I think we can be a special defense. Most of the guys are back, we know the system and we have a lot of confidence," Hicks said. "The pieces are there. We're a confident group. For me, it's about going out there and being part of things and getting back into the flow. That's going to come back to me quickly. I just have to wait until I'm fully ready and then when I am, I am going to go after it."
NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT
- Multiple reports say that Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston will be suspended for three games to open the 2018 regular season, and if that's the case Winston would miss the game in Week 2 when the Eagles visit. That would be huge for the Eagles in a tough road spot early in the season. Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick is a quality backup who went 2-1 last season when Winston was injured, but he doesn't have the skills Winston has.
- While Hicks and quarterback Carson Wentz have garnered the most attention as they recover from injuries, a couple of other veterans have made great progress. Running back/return man Darren Sproles said during the recent mandatory minicamp that he felt he was "good to go" in a full-time way, but was being held back as a precaution, so that's encouraging for camp. And left tackle Jason Peters, who did not make himself available to the media in the spring, ramped up his involvement throughout the offseason. Peters looked great taking reps at left tackle and appears to be on track to resume his Hall of Fame career. Safety Chris Maragos may still be a bit away from being cleared for Training Camp practices. We'll see where he's at in a month.
- Speaking of the offensive line, one of the best battles in camp will be among the group as the Eagles determine who makes the roster behind the projected starting fivesome of Peters, Stefen Wisniewski, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, and Lane Johnson. Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Chance Warmack, and Isaac Seumalo return from last season and they will be challenged by draft picks Matt Pryor and Jordan Mailata, among others.
- It's still very much a guess how teams are going to handle the NFL's new kickoff rules, but if the kicking team decides to play it and have more kickoffs land at the goal line, spurring more returns, who are the leading candidates for the Eagles as kickoff return men? Running back Wendell Smallwood would be a strong choice, but the truth is that special teams coordinator Dave Fipp plans to work through as many as six to eight players in camp. Having speed and being physical with good ball security are key characteristics to have in what could be a game-changing new direction for the league. Corey Clement would be a viable choice as well, with Mack Hollins as a second man back who can block. This is unknown frontier and it's going to be fun to watch the development.