Jordan Hicks

Emotional Jordan Hicks looked like old self in preseason opener

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Emotional Jordan Hicks looked like old self in preseason opener

Not too often you find a fourth-year veteran getting emotional during a preseason game.

Not too often you find somebody back on the field just 9½ months after blowing out his Achilles.

Jordan Hicks was the first of the Eagles’ injured guys from 2017 to get back on the field. He started at middle linebacker in the preseason opener Thursday night against the Steelers at the Linc and is on track to start the opener against the Falcons in three weeks.

“Nice to be back and just get six plays and just get on the field and go and get out there and get that speed back,” he said. “It felt great.

“I think it’s huge to get those reps, I think it’s huge to just get back into the swing of things. As soon as I could get back out on the field, I wasn’t going to miss that opportunity. It’s been too long.”

And even though he only played six snaps — the first-team defense got two 3-and-outs before calling it a day — it was a huge six snaps for Hicks.

“It was emotional,” he said. “Just the last time I was in pads was in the locker room still padded up being told my season was over.

“You sit and think about all the things that go into coming back from an injury, all the hard work, all the early mornings, the times it sucks, you can’t walk, family and friends have to wait on you hand and foot.

“It affects us all and just reflecting on all the people that helped me get back and getting back to that point.”

The first-team defense only allowed two yards in two series to a collection of mainly Steelers backups.

Hicks looked like his old self. 

"Played really well,” Doug Pederson said. “He's smart, intelligent, he runs well. There were really no signs of injury. Just keep knocking on wood things go well. Happy to see him back out on the team."

Presumably, Hicks and the starters will play more against the Patriots Thursday night in Foxboro, Massachusetts, but it was an auspicious start.

“It actually felt like I hadn’t left,” Hicks said. “It really felt normal. Kind of slow. As much as I’ve been out, I feel like I’ve picked up right where I left off. … Getting out there and feeling confident and getting that confidence back was nice.”

Hicks blew out his Achilles on Oct. 23 during a game against the Redskins at the Linc.

It was his second season-ending injury in three NFL seasons.

The other guys who missed the Super Bowl run — Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, Darren Sproles and Chris Maragos — are all in various stages of rehab.

Hicks is quietly all the way back and has been for a while.

"He was in the building every single day last year," Pederson said. "He saw what the team did and he's hungry to get back out on the football field.”

How did he get this far this fast?

“I worked,” he said. “Hard work. Guys around me. I’ve been blessed to have a great group of guys and be a part of this team and this organization, and I was encouraged every day by guys like (Jason Peters) and Carson and Sproles. We did that stuff together.”

Hicks has seven interceptions, two forced fumbles, two sacks and five fumble recoveries in 31 NFL games.

It’s incredible production and unprecedented for a linebacker in his first three seasons.

But bring up Hicks’ name and the first thing you think of is injuries. He missed the last eight games of 2015 with a torn pec and the last nine games of last year plus the postseason with the blown out Achilles.

“It’s freaking annoying, man,” Hicks said. “It is the worst feeling. It is the worst feeling.

“To me, the biggest disappointment in the whole thing is you feel like you let your team down. When you play such a big role on the defense, on the team, and you get hurt, you can’t be in that role anymore and you feel like you let your team down.

“And that’s the hardest part, knowing guys are defending on you constantly. I’m over it. Oh yeah. I can’t tell you enough.”

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10 players to watch in Eagles' 1st preseason game

10 players to watch in Eagles' 1st preseason game

After a short offseason, the Eagles will play a game Thursday night for the first time since Feb. 4, when they beat the Patriots 41-33 in Super Bowl LII. 

Remember that? 

Anyway, it’s a new season with the “new norm” and all that. The real season doesn’t begin for another four weeks, but the preseason starts tonight with the first of four games. The Eagles host the Steelers, but it doesn’t really matter who they’re playing or even if they win. 

The preseason is all about evaluating players, staying healthy and finding some rhythm. We’re going to focus on the evaluating players bit. We already asked some veterans who they want to watch (see story)

Here is my list of 10 Eagles: 

Nate Sudfeld
You don’t really have much of a choice on this one. Sudfeld is going to play and he’s going to play a lot. Not just in this game, but in the preseason. But that’s not a bad thing either. This is our first glimpse of a guy the Eagles really think has the stuff to be a more long-term backup for Carson Wentz once Nick Foles eventually moves on. The Eagles got Suds from Washington and haven’t let him leave. They even promoted him to the active roster last year to protect him from poachers. Sudfeld is lanky with a huge arm but has been inconsistent in camp. Here’s his first chance to show us what he’s got. 

Josh Adams
The rookie running back from Notre Dame missed all of the spring with a stress fracture in his foot but has done some nice things in training camp. Guys like Donnel Pumphrey, Wendell Smallwood and Matt Jones are probably still ahead of Adams, but with a big preseason, he could land on the roster. If nothing else, he can show off enough to make a practice squad or a different NFL roster. 

Donnel Pumphrey
Pump was bad in training camp last year, but he was awful in the preseason, averaging fewer than two yards per carry. The Eagles like the idea of him being more of a Darren Sproles-type running back, who can run and catch, but that’s been an adjustment. Pump was a between-the-tackles guy in college. He has looked much, much better this training camp, so we’ll see if he can carry it over to game action. 

Sidney Jones
I’ve already seen enough of this kid during training camp to think he’s going to be special. I’m excited for everyone else to see what I mean. Jones obviously fell to the Eagles at 43 last year thanks to that Achilles tear, but he still has that first-round talent inside of him. After seeing him for just 29 snaps last season after plenty of rust, I want to see him fully healthy and ready to go. 

Dallas Goedert 
Just about every day in training camp, Goedert has been pulling down touchdown passes. I’m not surprised by that. He’s a big body, with good hands and great body control. The red zone is where he can make his biggest impact. Expect to see him get some good time in his first-ever NFL game. 

Michael Bennett
Not sure how much Bennett will play tonight, but if he gets out there, he’s worth watching. The Eagles brought in the Pro Bowler via trade and made their already-deep defensive end group even deeper. And I just love watching Bennett play. He plays the position so loose. If you haven’t seen much of him before, you’ll see what I mean soon enough. 

Jordan Hicks 
Hicks has been a full participant all training camp and even looks like he’s bulked up. Not sure if we’ll see Jason Peters in this game, but I’d expect to see at least a little bit of Hicks. Him returning from that Achilles injury is a huge deal, especially as he enters a contract year. 

Shelton Gibson 
Gibson was having a great camp before it got a little off track thanks to a concussion he suffered in practice. Luckily for him, he was able to return this week and should be good to go for the game. The Eagles kept Gibson on the roster last year after a terrible training camp, but it now appears that patience is paying off. Gibson looks like a different dude this time around. 

Matt Pryor 
The sixth-round offensive lineman from TCU has been a training camp revelation. He’s pretty close to being a lock on the roster already. That’s how good he’s been over the first couple of weeks. I know I’m asking you to watch an offensive guard and that doesn’t sound fun, but he might be the real deal. 

Kamu Grugier-Hill 
Nate Gerry has been working with the first team at WILL, which means KGH will probably not start. But after watching him make play after play at the NovaCare Complex, I want to see if he can do it across the street in a game. I really think KGH deserves more time with the starters. 

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Eagles vets pick young players they want to see in preseason

Eagles vets pick young players they want to see in preseason

After two-plus weeks of taking out their aggression on each other, the Eagles will get to hit some Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night. 

Training camp is an absolute grind, so getting to play a game — albeit a preseason game — is a welcome change of pace. 

Doug Pederson wants to get his starters some work this preseason; he said about 65-70 snaps. But that leaves a ton of game action for younger players who are trying to make a name for themselves. We all have some players we want to see in game action — I’ll give you my list Thursday. 

But I also thought about asking several established veterans to give me a name of one of their younger teammates they want to see on Thursday night. 

Here are their answers:

Rodney McLeod 

“I would just say probably Sidney (Jones). Him battling back from an Achilles injury, being picked where he was picked at. Obviously, have high expectations for him, him just working his butt back to even play last year. But now that he’s healthy, he’s looking good, he’s growing each day. I’m excited for him to finally get out there and show everyone what he’s made of and what he can do.” 

Jones was the 43rd pick in the draft last year after tearing his Achilles at the Washington pro day. He would have easily been a first-rounder sans injury. Jones was able to get on the field for the 2017 regular-season finale, but played just 29 snaps against the Cowboys and didn’t play in the playoffs. With a full year under his belt and now completely healthy, there are huge expectations around Jones, who has been playing primarily nickel corner in training camp. 

Brandon Brooks 

(Matt) Pryor. Looking at Pryor, man, he reminds me a lot of myself when I was young. Big dude who has some athleticism, but really needs to experience play. That’s with everything, just more and more reps. I think he’s going to be really f------ good, to be honest. I’m excited to see him play.” 

This answer wasn’t surprising either. Pryor, the 6-7 sixth-round rookie from TCU, has been very impressive during training camp. He can play offensive tackle and guard, but has been mostly working at guard. 

Fletcher Cox 

Bruce Hector. He’s just one of those young guys that he does everything right, he listens. I’m not saying that all the young guys don’t listen, but he’s kind of blooming. I’ve seen him take baby steps right now. You can tell it’s showing up in practice and I’m really excited to see him play.” 

A little bit of a wild-card pick, Hector is an undrafted defensive tackle from South Florida, who has shown something during training camp. He has an uphill battle to make the roster, but has some skills. 

Nigel Bradham 

“You know what? I’m excited to see a lot of people, man. I’m really excited to see Sidney (Jones). I think he’s going to do well. Obviously, Nate (Gerry). Nate Sudfeld as well too. I’m ready to see all the young guys, man. It’s going to be fun.” 

We already talked about Jones, but let’s talk briefly about Gerry. He was a fifth-round pick a year ago from Nebraska. He switched from college safety to NFL linebacker and is now in the lead to win the Eagles’ weakside linebacker job. 

Corey Clement 

(Donnel) Pumphrey. Just because he didn’t get a chance to get much work in last year. I know he’s itching to get back out there. That’s a guy I’m looking forward to being able to showcase his abilities. I know he’s got it.” 

After a terrible preseason last year, the former fourth-round running back looks like a different guy this summer. He’s been much better in practice and now it’s time to see if that translates into games. 

Jordan Hicks

“They’ve all been balling right now. Obviously, Kamu (Grugier-Hill’s) athletic ability, Nate has emerged. I think who I’m excited to see is LaRoy (Reynolds). If I had to pick one, I’d probably say LaRoy because I haven’t seen him play before. And what he’s showed out there on the practice field has been awesome effort, ability to hit, come downhill, his aggressiveness. I’m excited to see him play.” 

Reynolds is an interesting answer because he’s actually a year older than Hicks. But it’s not a bad answer. Reynolds is a veteran in his sixth year who has flown under the radar this summer, but he’s definitely been aggressive and sometimes nasty in practice. He has a shot at the roster. 

Nick Foles 

(Note: Foles was asked which young players fans might notice Thursday.) "I think Dallas (Goedert) has had a great camp, just from the tight end position. I think he’s a really good player that’s coming along every single day. He’s going to keep working every single day, he’s obviously young, but he’s got a lot of great coaches and players around to help him. I think he will be a guy to do well. I think another guy would be Rashard Davis. From a guy that’s undrafted, coming in here in his second year, I think he’s a very talented player, can do a lot of different things when the ball is in his hands, is very dynamic. A lot of guys might not necessarily know much about him, but I think he’s a guy who can do some really special things."

Goedert is a great one. He has been really good in camp. And Davis is a little under the radar, but he's hard to cover, especially during 1-on-1 drills. The former UDFA is a fun player.  

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