Eagles

Quite a Christmas present coming for Jordan Hicks

usati-jordan-hicks.jpg
USA Today Images

Quite a Christmas present coming for Jordan Hicks

It won't be a surprise, but Jordan Hicks is going to get a pretty great Christmas present this year. 

He won't find it under his tree either. 

Hicks, who has been recovering from a torn Achilles tendon and surgery, will hit another big milestone in his recovery on Dec. 25. That's the day the walking boot comes off of his right foot. 

"Real good present, right?" Hicks said. 

Hicks, 25, tore his right Achilles on the second play from scrimmage against Washington on Oct. 23. Having already torn his left Achilles in college, Hicks knew immediately that his season was over and a long recovery was ahead of him. 

But Hicks has no doubt he'll return to being the same player he was before. He thinks he'll be even better. 

"Oh there's no question about that," Hicks said on Friday, speaking to a group of reporters in the Eagles' locker room for the first time since the injury. "There's no question about that. I'll be fine. I did my left Achilles in college and came back better. I know more, the advancements are better. There's no doubt in my mind I'll be a better player when I come back."

Hicks said the normal recovery time from an Achilles rupture is six to nine months. The six-month mark will be April. He expects to be back for training camp and be completely ready for next season. 

Before suffering this Achilles tear, Hicks had been dealing with an ankle injury on his left leg. Hicks, who has been labeled as an injury-prone player since college, was very proud of playing all 16 games in 2016. So when that ankle injury popped up earlier this season, he tried to play through it. That ankle injury led to a calf injury in his right leg and then the Achilles popped. Hicks thinks overcompensating for the initial injury led to a more serious one. 

"I think a couple weeks could have helped me, but it's always easy to look back," Hicks said. "Hindsight is 20/20. I wouldn't change anything just because it's my personality. It's who I am. All I want to do is be there for my teammates. Every time I step out there, the biggest goal for me is to have my teammates know that I'm their leader and I can be accountable. For me to sit here and say I shouldn't have been out there those weeks, it's hard for me to say that because all I want to do is be out there."

Hicks lasted just a couple plays in that Washington game before his Achilles popped, which put him right back on that road to recovery. And initially, it wasn't easy. Jason Peters joined him in the locker room a quarter later with his own season-ending injury and tried to raise his spirits, but that didn't change the fact that Hicks' season was over.

And for the second time in his three-year career, he knew he would end the season on injured reserve. 

"The grief set in," he said. "For the first week or so, it was tough, but man, there's no time for that. There's no time to sit here and sulk. There's no time to think about what could have been. ... All I'm focusing on is making sure I'm better and ready next year for my guys. That's all it is. For me, it's about accountability."

While Hicks made a rare appearance in the Eagles' locker room during media time on Friday, he's been around the building plenty. He and the Eagles' other injured players have remained involved despite their injuries. In fact, every week, Hicks studies opponent film to see how they handle blitzes. And every Friday, he gets in front of the defense to present it. 

After the injury, Jim Schwartz came to him and asked him to do this. 

"It's easy to isolate yourself in situations like this," Hicks said. "For him to come up to me and ask me to do that was big. I try to keep guys' spirits up and share my perspective." 

For the last month and a half, Hicks has been around the team but has been forced to watch games on TV, which he said is really tough. He hopes that's about to end. He'll be in North Jersey this weekend for the Giants game and hopes he'll be back on the sideline. 

"It's tough," Hicks said. "It's never easy to go through something like this. It tests your patience, this tests your character. You learn a lot through these times because it is so difficult. You have to really grind through some hard times. Put your head down and I think your character is really shown through this."

What NFL kickoff rule changes mean for Eagles

usa_corey_clement_eagles_kickoffs.jpg
USA Today Images

What NFL kickoff rule changes mean for Eagles

The NFL is changing the kickoff rules again in an attempt to make the most dangerous play in the game a little safer.

There will be a trial run in 2018 and the league will take a look at its findings next spring.

For now, here are the basics of the new kickoff rules:

• No more running starts for kicking team

• Eight of 11 kick returning players must be in setup zone (15 yards from the ball)

• No blocking in setup zone before the ball is touched

• No more two-man wedge blocks

• Kickoff team must have five players on each side of the ball

So what does this mean for the Eagles and Dave Fipp’s unit, which has been considered one of the best in the league since he took over?

Well, we’ll start with the Eagles when they kick off because that’s where we might see the most drastic change. Last season, Jake Elliott kicked off 84 times and had 42 touchbacks. There were 16 kickers in the league (at least 35 kickoffs) who had a higher touchback percentage. And it’s no coincidence.

During last season, in October, Malcolm Jenkins actually challenged Fipp to allow players to make plays (see story). Basically, the Eagles kicked the ball short of the goal line, betting that they could bring players down before the 25-yard line.

The rule restricting that running start might make them think twice.

When the Eagles are returning kicks, maybe they’ll try to return more. Last year, the Eagles were 26th in the league in kick return average at 19.7 yards per return. And they returned just 18 kicks, the fewest amount in the NFL.

The Eagles lost their primary kick returner, Kenjon Barner, in free agency. So they’ll have a new returner, who might have some extra space to work with.

It has been argued that these rules will actually increase the number of kick returns, while also making the play safer. We’ll see.

Eagles not complacent on first day back since Super Bowl

ap_cox.png
AP Images

Eagles not complacent on first day back since Super Bowl

This was a little different than last time the Eagles were on the football field together.

There were about 50 people watching instead of 100 million. They were in an indoor practice facility in South Philly instead of U.S. Bank Stadium. And there was a little bit less at stake in Tuesday’s OTA practice than in Super Bowl LII.

The Eagles figuratively turned the page on 2017 Tuesday morning when the 2018 Eagles practiced together as a team for the first time.

“We haven’t all been together on the field since the Super Bowl, so just having everybody back was really nice,” Nigel Bradham said.

“The energy was great. You could feel it. We look good. Got some great additions and guys are picking up where we left off and everybody wants to get better. 

“It’s definitely a mindset of we’ve got to defend ours. Going into it, we know we’ve got to stay hungry and we know what it takes now.”

This is uncharted territory for the Eagles, who won their first NFL championship in 57 years on Feb. 4 in Minneapolis.

The offseason was short. It’s been about three months since the parade. Opening day is just 3 1/2 months away.

“It’s obviously been a whirlwind since the season ended,” Zach Ertz said. “It feels like (the Super Bowl) was yesterday. 

“But it’s time to go. Guys are dealing with some injuries, but nobody’s going to feel bad for us some Sept. 6 against the Falcons, that we played five extra weeks of the season. It’s time to flip the switch and move on. Obviously, we’re extremely proud of everything we accomplished last year, but it’s time to move forward.”

This is going to be the Eagles’ mantra all year. 

The Super Bowl was great. But it’s ancient history now. 

“I felt good for about the first month after the Super Bowl and then I realized that time moves on,” Lane Johnson said. “Now it’s really about erasing it, like it never happened. 

“I know I’ve got the (Super Bowl LII) shirt on, but it’s the only shirt I have. You look at what we achieved last year, we were a team that was hungry, a team that was desperate to win. We’ve got to have that same mindset. Let’s go attack people and do the same thing we did last year.”

That means working hard every day. Without exception. Even at a mid-May minicamp practice.

“I know for me, I was very, very antsy,” Jalen Mills said. “I know I caught myself a couple times getting away from my technique because I was just so excited to be back out there. Just so excited to be able to compete again and make plays. Our energy is very, very high.”

The Eagles will finish up their offseason workouts in mid-June and then have six more weeks off before training camp begins in late July.

Ertz said he can't imagine anybody on this team growing complacent simply because the goal was never just to win a Super Bowl.

“If your ultimate goal is to win a Super Bowl, you’d have no motivation left," he said. "So your motivation has to be more than that. My motivation and I think the motivation of a lot of the guys in here is that I’m trying to be one of the best I can possibly be and be one of the best to ever play. So the motivational factor depends on the perspective that you’re looking at it.”

Nobody has won back-to-back Super Bowls since the Patriots in 2003 and 2004, the second one over the Eagles.

No NFC team has won two straight since the Cowboys in 1992 and 1993.

“There’s always going to be one-hit wonders in this league,” Ertz said. “Teams that won one Super Bowl or players that made one Pro Bowl and then you didn’t hear from them again. But it’s the great players and the great teams that are able to have that sustained success.

“I think guys that are in this locker room have a very similar outlook on a lot of things. They strive to be the best and if they’re not they’re not going to last here very long. Just the demands of this city and the demands of the leaders on this team are very high, so if you don’t have that same outlook, you’re not going to last very long here.”