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.