It wasn’t that he was a bad player. It wasn’t even because of his injury problems in college. It was just confusing why Chip Kelly would draft an inside linebacker in the third round with Mychal Kendricks, Kiko Alonso and DeMeco Ryans all on the roster. At that point, it seemed like nearly any other position would be a better fit for their needs.
Fast forward six weeks into the 2015 season, and it’s becoming clear that Kelly was able to see the future that draft day. Kendricks, Alonso and Ryans are all hurt, leaving Hicks as the top healthy inside linebacker on the roster. As they went down one by one, it was looking worse and worse as to the status of the position group. But at this point, I don’t think Chip has anything to worry about.
Hicks has not just been a pleasant surprise. Hicks has been dominant. After not being needed in Week 1, Hicks burst onto the scene in Week 2 and knocked out arguably the most hated player by Eagles fans in Tony Romo. How could you not be liked after that? His bone-snapping (literally) hit has left Romo on the shelf, and he still hasn’t returned. If Hicks walked off the field after that play and never played another down of football, he’d already be considered a success. But there was no way he was stopping there.
In five games, he’s already accumulated a full stat sheet. He has 37 tackles, including two games in which he had 10 (one of which was last night against the Giants). He has a sack and forced fumble, obviously, since that’s the hit that shattered Romo’s collarbone. And in Week 3, he even had an interception against the Jets. He’s been good in coverage too, something that Chip really looks for in his inside linebackers. But the most impressive stat is his three fumble recoveries, which is tied for first in the league. And the person he’s tied with? None other than Darrelle Revis, who’s been one of the best cornerbacks over the last decade. Not bad.
In the first quarter, Ryans was dominating the Eagles defense, ripping the ball away from Larry Donnell for an interception and making multiple key tackles. But when he went down with a hamstring injury, it turned into the Hicks show. Hicks ended up leading the team in tackles in the game and is now second on the team for the whole season. Not bad for a third round pick and fourth-best player at his position going into the regular season.
Many people are questioning what will happen when all four linebackers are finally healthy considering they’ve all looked like starters, but with how frequent they’ve all been injured, I don’t see them ever running into that problem. However, if they somehow do all get healthy, it would certainly be hard to take Hicks off the field with how he’s playing.
Going into the regular season, I didn’t think there’d be a situation where either Nelson Agholor or Eric Rowe, their first and second round picks, respectively, wouldn’t be the best looking rookie on the team. Hicks was kind of just “there” among the outstanding group of inside linebackers on the team. But now, he’s looking like one of the best players on the whole defense.
On behalf of anyone who was confused by this draft pick, including me, I’d like to apologize to both Hicks and Kelly. But especially to this team’s fearless leader, who was able to anticipate an injury-plagued position group and bolster it in the draft, even if it looked strange. It’s times like these where you really have to believe in Chip. He may not get everything right, but when he proves people wrong with picks like he has with Hicks thus far, it’s a great feeling.
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