Eagles

Eagles LBs coach thinks there's more ceiling for Jordan Hicks

Eagles LBs coach thinks there's more ceiling for Jordan Hicks

Jordan Hicks is a good middle linebacker. 

After his first two seasons in the NFL, the former third-round pick has piled up some eye-popping numbers. 

In his first 24 games in the league (his rookie season was cut short with a pec injury), he has seven interceptions, 14 passes defensed, four fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and two sacks. 

He's just the fifth player in NFL history — and only linebacker — to have that many INTs, fumble recoveries and forced fumbles in the first two years of his career. 

Hicks, who turns 25 later this month, is already really good. The next step is to become great. 

Is there room for more growth? 

"I would hope so," Eagles linebackers coach Ken Flajole said last week. "We're all emotionally tied in with our guys. I think he's done a great job for us. Is there room for improvement? No question. But he works at it. It's important to him. I know it's important for him that he puts the team success above himself. 

"I would suspect that there's more ceiling for him at linebacker. And I expect him to work at those things." 

Hicks actually had a chance to work on some of those things this offseason. As he exited last year, it was clear Hicks possessed ball-hawk traits, but admittedly needed to get better against the run. 

After his first NFL season, Hicks was stuck recovering from his torn pectoral and subsequent surgery. The rehab didn't allow him to strength train as much as he would have liked. 

This year, it's been a different story. He's hit the weight room hard, put on some extra weight, and hasn't been hamstrung by a tedious rehab process. 

"It's been great, man," Hicks said. "Having a full offseason to get in rhythm, having a full offseason to lift and get stronger and not have to take a step back to rehab and do everything over again, it's huge. Huge. To just build and stack and stack on top of each other."

Flajole agrees with Hicks, that the extra time in the weight room will help him against the run, specifically at the point of attack.  

Flajole isn't the only person in the NovaCare Complex who thinks big things are still ahead for Hicks. After the season finale against the Cowboys last season, Malcolm Jenkins said he thought Hicks is "trending to be one of the better linebackers in this league."

While Hicks wants to improve his run defense, it's undeniable that the strength of his game — to this point — is his knack for being around the ball. He always seems to be making a big play, whether it's an interception or a fumble recovery. 

It might seem like chance, but Flajole doesn't discount it as such. 

"He's a very instinctual guy and I think he understands the game," Flajole said. "The thing that can't be discounted for Jordan is that he works at it. He watches a lot of tape and because of those things, he feeds off of tendencies that the offense would give him, either by down and distance or formation. And he uses those to his advantage." 

For the second straight year, Hicks will be in the same defense under Jim Schwartz and will have the same battery mate in Nigel Bradham, who enters the second year of his two-year deal. 

At some point before the 2017 season starts, Hicks will set some personal goals for himself, like he does every year. While he hasn't set them yet, Hicks said they are normally leadership-based or stat-based. 

"It definitely gives you something to reach for and keep you on track," Hicks said. "Just like you set team goals. If you're not setting goals, you're just working towards nothing, just shooting in the air at nothing." 

One thing the goals won't be is accolade-based. Sure, Hicks would like to be named to his first Pro Bowl, but that won't be on the checklist. 

If he gets better than he's been in Year 1 and 2, it'll only be a matter of time before the recognition catches up with his stats. 

"I'm not really worried about the accolades at this point," he said. "It's not really what I'm focused on. I believe that if you're doing what you need to do, day in and day out, you're giving it everything you got, the rest will come. I'm focused on what I can do for this team, what I can do to make this team the best it can be. And let the rest fall in place."

Raiders beat Chiefs in thriller with touchdown on final play

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Raiders beat Chiefs in thriller with touchdown on final play

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Wins have been so hard to come by for the Oakland Raiders that it took three tries at the final play for them finally to pull this one out and possibly save their season.

Derek Carr threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree on the final play after the game was extended by two straight defensive holding calls and the Raiders snapped a four-game losing streak with a 31-30 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night.

"We didn't give up," Crabtree said. "We got a team full of fighters. We believe. ... No matter how hard the game was, we believed. We came out with the W and I'm excited. It's a good way to win, a great way to win."

With their season on the line following the recent slump, Carr led an 85-yard touchdown drive in the final 2:25 to give the Raiders (3-4) the thrilling comeback in a game they trailed by nine points heading into the fourth quarter.

Carr finished 29 for 52 for 417 yards and three touchdowns, with Amari Cooper catching 11 passes for 210 yards and two of the scores. The Raiders had struggled to get the ball downfield while being held to 17 or fewer points in four straight games but Carr repeatedly beat the Chiefs with deep passes.

"No. 4 kept making plays," coach Jack Del Rio said. "This is a special, special win."

Alex Smith threw for 342 yards and three touchdowns but it wasn't enough for the Chiefs (5-2). They lost consecutive games for the first time since Oct. 11-18, 2015, and had their 12-game winning streak in the AFC West snapped in a thrilling finish.

"I've never been part of a game that came down so dramatic," linebacker Derrick Johnson said. "But, still had a chance to win. Period. Just have to make a play. One play. One play."

The Raiders had an apparent go-ahead touchdown pass to Jared Cook with 18 seconds left overturned when replay ruled he was down at the 1. An offensive pass interference on Crabtree wiped out another touchdown on the next play.

But holding calls on Ron Parker and Eric Murray set the stage for the final play. Carr hit Crabtree in the front corner of the end zone to tie it at 30. Giorgio Tavecchio won it with the extra point , setting off a celebration on a wild night that included Oakland running back Marshawn Lynch getting ejected in the second quarter for shoving an official.

Hot tempers
The game took an odd turn midway through the second quarter after Kansas City's Marcus Peters hit Carr late, angering the Raiders. Offensive linemen Kelechi Osemele and Donald Penn confronted Peters and Lynch sprinted off the Oakland sideline to join the fray. Lynch, a close friend of Peters, ended up shoving line judge Julian Mapp and getting ejected . Peters also was called for a personal foul on the play. Lynch congratulated his teammates in the locker room after the game but didn't speak to reporters.

"I was disappointed he ran out because I knew we had a 15-yard penalty and we'd be in good shape," Del Rio said.

Long drive
After Marquette King pinned the Chiefs at their own 1 with a perfect punt early in the second quarter, Kansas City needed little time to turn the momentum. Smith hit Demarcus Robinson on a 33-yard pass on the first play of the drive. After a short run, Tyreek Hill beat David Amerson for a 64-yard touchdown pass that gave the Chiefs their first 99-yard drive since doing it Dec. 3, 2006, against Cleveland.

Deep connection
Carr had not connected on a single deep ball to Amari Cooper all season before the two teamed twice for long TDs in the opening quarter. On the first, Cooper appeared to push Terrance Mitchell but the officials picked up the flag and gave Cooper the 38-yard TD . Later in the quarter Carr and Cooper connected on a 45-yard score, making Cooper the first Raiders receiver with two TD catches in the first quarter since Mervyn Fernandez in 1989.

Kicking woes
The Raiders were hurt last week when a bad snap by Jon Condo led to a missed extra point by Giorgio Tavecchio in a 17-16 loss to the Chargers. That was Tavecchio's first missed kick of any kind this season but he then had a 53-yarder blocked and missed a 45-yarder wide left in the second quarter. Tavecchio also had a false start on an extra point in the third quarter.

Up next
Chiefs: Host Denver on Oct. 30.

Raiders: Visit Buffalo on Oct. 29.

Carson Wentz feels 5-1 Eagles 'just wired different this year'

Carson Wentz feels 5-1 Eagles 'just wired different this year'

There's something special going on around here, and Carson Wentz isn't afraid to say it.

“We’re made different this year," Wentz said after practice Thursday. "We have a different character makeup in that locker room, and nobody’s going to ever settle for anything less than greatness. So we’re going to go out there every day and attack it.”

The Eagles, 5-1, go for their fifth straight win Monday night against the Redskins, who they beat on opening day at FedEx Field.

Wentz, in only his second season, has elbowed his way into the NFL MVP conversation (see story). His emergence as the unquestioned leader of this team has mirrored the team's emergence as one of the NFL's elite teams.

Wentz spoke Thursday about how he sensed something different, something special, as far back as spring workouts.

“You could just see it, even going back to OTAs," he said. "You could see the competitive nature, even in practice. You couldn’t wear pads. You couldn’t even press cover outside. You could just see the competitive nature.

"And then through training camp, it just kept getting elevated even more. You could just see it from the leadership on down. We’re just wired different this year.”

When Wentz tells his teammates to strive for greatness, they listen, because here's a kid who in just 22 career games has established himself as one of the NFL's best young quarterbacks. He has 13 touchdowns and just three interceptions this year and has posted a passer rating of 90 or higher in five of six games.

“It’s something that we always strive for," Wentz said. "And really, in everything we do in life, you strive for greatness.

"When we’re sitting where we’re at right now, we can just never let that slip. We can never let that slip from our preparation in the film room, the meeting room, the weight room, in practice, so that’s just something I feel like we have to always keep focusing on.

"Never settle, never settle, and just keep striving for that greatness.”

Wentz said he didn't feel anything lacking last year, when the Eagles went 7-9 and missed the playoffs for a third straight year.

It's just that head coach Doug Pederson is in Year 2, coordinators Frank Reich and Jim Schwartz are in Year 2 and Wentz is in Year 2.

The whole program is in Year 2 and there's a confidence, an attitude, a swagger that was nowhere to be found last year or really the last few years.

“I think it was just a natural growth," Wentz said. "You go back and look at last season again. We were so close in so many of those ballgames but [it's] just the natural growth that’s taken place both from coach and just really all of us being in this together and having a year under our belt."