This is a make-or-break season for Eagles' Jordan Hicks

This is a make-or-break season for Eagles' Jordan Hicks

Not many people question Jordan Hicks’ ability. They question his availability. 

And based on his track record, that’s not unfair. 

Hicks, 26, has played three NFL seasons with the Eagles and two of them have ended on injured reserve, including last season, when he tore his Achilles. And before he entered the NFL, injuries plagued him during his time at the University of Texas.  

So as Hicks enters the final year of his rookie contract, this is a make-or-break season for the talented middle linebacker. 

He knows it. 

Here’s what Hicks said in a 1-on-1 with NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Derrick Gunn earlier this week: 

Gotta stay healthy. I gotta prove it. Obviously, that shows a lack of ability to have that faith in me that I’m going to be out there. That puts a chip on my shoulder. I embrace it. I gotta attack it. Gotta prove it. 

If Hicks is healthy this season, it could be a huge boost for the Eagles’ defense as they try to repeat as Super Bowl champions. He’s their middle linebacker, signal caller and one of the most important pieces on Jim Schwartz’s unit. Simply put, he’s a playmaker. 

In 31 career games, he has seven interceptions (one returned for a TD), one forced fumble, three fumbles recovered and two sacks. Hicks is one of just four linebackers who have at least seven interceptions in the last three seasons (along with Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Ryan Shazier). And Hicks has played fewer games than all of them. 

Hicks just seems to have a knack for making game-changing plays. 

But he can only do that when he’s on the field. 

Going back to his college career, his list of injuries is as extensive as his list of on-field accomplishments. 

  • Groin injury in 2012
  • Achilles tear in 2013
  • Torn pec in 2015 
  • Another torn Achilles in 2017 

While Hicks has been an extremely productive player, that’s four of the last six years with a significant injury. Heck, he even broke his hand last offseason at the pool in Greece on his honeymoon. Hicks hates the “injury prone” label, but even if he plays all 16 games this season, he probably won’t shake it. Remember, he played all 16 games in 2016 and thought this was all behind him. Turns out it wasn’t. 

Even if Hicks plays well this season, the Eagles are going to have to ask themselves whether or not they really feel comfortable hitching their wagon to him with a long-term deal. 

For now, Hicks is a tremendous value if he stays healthy. He’s going to get paid less than $2 million this year, but if he has a big season, he’s going to want his first payday. Even if he plays every game, based on his history, that’s a gamble. 

Because Hicks knows how important his health is, he works extremely hard on his body. He’s completely healed from that last Achilles tear and looks good in training camp. He even dropped that infamous training camp line about being in the best shape of his life. 

“I feel like I picked up where I left off. I really don’t feel like I’ve lost a step at all,” Hicks said. 

That’s great if he’s on the field. Hicks has to prove that first. 

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Eagles' holding just 1 open training camp practice is an insult to devoted fans

Eagles' holding just 1 open training camp practice is an insult to devoted fans

I could go on and on about how much I loved training camp at West Chester and the unforgettable memories, like Herschel Walker standing at the top of the steps on the west end of the practice field signing autographs in the blazing heat (with his helmet on) for an hour, until every kid had gotten something signed.

I could go on and on about how much I loved training camp at Lehigh and how fans could stand literally six feet from the practice field and hear the thud of contact and interact with the players as they stood on the sideline.

But I’m not going to do that because those days are gone forever and no amount of me crying about it is going to bring it back.

And I understand why the Eagles — and more and more NFL teams every year — are holding practices in their own year-round facilities instead of remote college campuses. It makes sense to practice where your film library is stored, where your modern medical and training facilities are housed, where all your equipment and gear is, where your immaculately maintained practice fields are located.

I get it.

What I don’t get is just one open practice for the fans.

One. In a year.

That’s inexcusable.

The Eagles moved from Lehigh to the NovaCare Complex in 2013, when Chip Kelly replaced Andy Reid. The Eagles scheduled five open practices that first summer, then three in 2014 and two each from 2015 through 2018.

And now just one.

Yeah, the $10 ticket fee for the Eagles’ one open practice this summer goes to a great cause. Every penny goes to the Eagles Autism Challenge, a cause that’s close to Jeff Lurie’s heart. The Eagles Autism Challenge raised $3 1/2 million this year, and it’s a terrific event that I’ve participated in the last two years.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the Eagles have an opportunity to put on a show for their fans two or three times during training camp, and for reasons they haven't explained, they’ve chosen not to.

The Eagles had no comment on why they've reduced open practices to just one this summer, but I assume it’s because it’s a logistical nightmare loading up all that equipment and moving it across the street for a glorified walkthrough.

It’s a hassle — and presumably an expensive one — for Doug Pederson to lose a valuable practice day in the cozy environment of the NovaCare Complex so Jake Elliott can play catch with fans, Brandon Graham can sign autographs for every kid he can find and everybody can watch in person while Carson Wentz and DeSean Jackson light it up.

But this is a franchise worth close to $3 billion, according to Forbes, and these are fans that devote their lives to this football team, buying their jerseys, snagging every ticket the instant it’s available, traveling to their games.

They deserve more than one open practice.

They deserve more than one day to watch their football team with their own eyes.

We all know how hard it is for the average fan to get tickets. If you don’t know someone or already have season tickets of your own or have a whole big pile of money, you’re not going.

The open practices are the only remaining opportunity most fans have to see their heroes up close. To interact with them. To feel like they’re a part of everything.

It’s a long preseason. Training camp starts July 25 and really continues until Aug. 21, when joint practices with the Ravens wrap up.

I find it hard to believe the Eagles can’t find one more day to move their operations across Broad Street for all the people who've helped make this franchise worth close to $3 billion.

We’ve gone from five to three to two and now to one. You can see what direction this is trending. I’m afraid of what’s coming next.

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Eagles to charge for 1 open training camp practice, proceeds going to autism research

Eagles to charge for 1 open training camp practice, proceeds going to autism research

Eagles players will report to training camp on Wednesday, July 24, and the first practice will take place on July 25 at the NovaCare Complex. 

All but one practice will be held at the NovaCare Complex. The Eagles will hold just one open practice for fans at Lincoln Financial Field, but this year will charge admission. 

The open practice will be on Aug. 4 at 7 p.m.; it will also be Military Appreciation Night. 

Tickets will be $10 and all proceeds will go to the Eagles Autism Challenge. Tickets can be purchased on TicketMaster.com and went on sale at 10:30 this morning. 

For years, most of the Eagles’ training camp practices were open to fans at Lehigh University and even since the team moved camp to the NovaCare Complex, select practices have been open to fans for free at the Linc. This is the first year the Eagles will charge admission to a training camp practice. Parking for the open practice this year will still be free. 

Last year, the Eagles had two open practices at the Linc. Tickets were required, but they were free of charge. 

According to ESPN, there was internal debate about whether or not to charge admission to practice this year, but, "Ultimately, the desire to further the team's charitable efforts won out."

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