Eagles Wake-Up Call: Hicks And the Pursuit Of Health
Well, carrots are out.
In a quest to learn more about his biological makeup in the name of injury prevention and career longevity, Jordan Hicks spent part of the offseason with a doctor/nutritionist out in California. Blood was drawn and tests run to see if his diet was in any way affecting his body’s performance. It proved to be educational.
“It’s made me aware of certain things I should be putting into my body and certain things that I shouldn’t be. And even if they are ‘healthy’ to everybody or supposed to be to the general public, to certain people they do certain things,” he explained.
“Like carrots. Supposed to be anti-inflammatory. But with me, they are an inflammatory. Something in my body causes it to be…it’s not very high, it’s not something that’s huge, but…stay away from carrots. To you, to everybody, carrots are a vegetable, eat your vegetables, it’s a good thing to do, but for me it’s a little bit different.”
Good info to have, but Hicks knows full-well that he has not unlocked the mystery that explains away his rather extensive injury history — that will rationalize why he tore his pec last season against the Cowboys; why he sustained a broken bone in his foot in 2011; suffered a hip flexor injury in 2012; or tore his Achilles in 2013 while playing for Texas. Rather, the knowledge-gathering is a small part of a collective, proactive approach to ensure that all possible steps are being taken to help keep Hicks on the field moving forward.
Despite his youth (24 years old) and relative inexperience, Hicks is considered a vital piece of the operation on defense. His value showed itself not just in the eight games that he played as a rookie but also during the time that he missed, as the defense unraveled down the stretch in part because it was missing a conductor in the middle.
“One of the things that got us was, one of the inside linebackers needs to be the quarterback,” Billy Davis told the Daily News recently. “DeMeco [Ryans] was that guy. When he was in there, everybody else just had to worry about [doing] their own job.
“Then DeMeco gets nicked up and goes down and the young kid [Hicks] comes in and does a great job. He was a great quarterback. But then he gets hurt, and now, Mychal [Kendricks] or Kiko [Alonso], one of those two have to be the quarterback. And neither one of them could do that.”
As currently constructed, the Eagles linebacker group doesn’t have any obvious candidates to fill that role should No. 58 go down. So he’s gotta stay up.
Hicks believes that much of his injury history is “fluky,” though he acknowledged that his style of play and approach might have something to do with all the wear and tear.
“I play football, I play a physical sport, I’m an aggressive player. I play that way, I’ll continue to play that way, that’s how it is,” he said.
“I think a lot of it is the stress I put on my own body. I’m a guy who puts his head down and works and tries to continuously grind. There’s times when I need somebody to tell me, ‘Take a step back. You’re working really hard. There’s a season to be played.’ But that’s just my mindset.”
It sounds like Doug Pederson intends to be one of those voices. When talking about players that he may rest or pull back on during camp, he mentioned Hicks along with veterans like Jason Peters, Leodis McKelvin and Ryan Mathews.
“You’ve got to monitor guys like — I think the guys that [are] coming off injury, you know, maybe a Jordan Hicks,” said Pederson, “you take a look at him and you can say, ‘Hey, let’s rest him, back him down and get him ready for the regular season.’”
“I wasn’t part of that decision, that’s upstairs,” said Hicks. “It doesn’t affect me. When I’m not in, I’m locked in.”
The other part of the equation is sports science. Hicks is working with Shaun Huls to learn more about how he is wired and ways to get maximum output out of his body so he can stay upright and excel.
“I’m getting to learn about working with Shaun and working on my hamstrings and different things to strengthen other muscle groups and just putting the pieces together. It’s a big puzzle, you’re trying to put it all together and that’s what we’re doing,” he said.
“Being at this level and having the opportunity ahead of me and being young and having the ability to continue to play and my dreams and aspirations of wanting to play for a while, it’s something I had to do, something I have no problem doing. I have to invest in my body, continue to learn about my body. I love this game and I’ll continue to do it.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
“I gain more ground faster off the ball.” Jim Schwartz‘s most important technique in his new scheme.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Even without Chip Kelly, Bob Ford of the Inquirer says that linebacker and former Duck Joe Walker could stick.
The funny thing about Walker’s situation here, aside from the obvious, is that he probably has a better shot at making the team now than he would have in any of the three previous seasons, regardless of school colors. The Eagles are settled on their three starting linebackers, but the depth behind them is exceedingly thin, and all three of the starters missed multiple games with injuries last season.
Walker is primarily taking reps behind Jordan Hicks in the middle, although he has the versatility to play at either of the outside positions, too. Along with Walker behind Hicks is veteran Najee Goode, who took 349 of his 386 snaps on special teams last season despite injuries at various times to every other inside linebacker: Hicks, Mychal Kendricks, DeMeco Ryans, and Kiko Alonso. At the weak-side linebacker position behind Kendricks at the moment, there is Deontae Skinner, a 2015 practice squad player; and behind Nigel Bradham at strong side is undrafted rookie Quentin Gause from Rutgers. So, obviously there is opportunity all around for Walker if he can make an impression.
“Joe is a very instinctual player, very physical, a really good middle linebacker,” Hicks said. “He understands football and is smart. He’s able to call a defense. He kind of has all the tools you want and he’s always calm. If he messes something up, he comes and asks about it, just like we’ve all done before.”
The kicker battle between Cody Parker and Caleb Sturgis is a healthy one, writes Andrew Kulp of CSNPhilly.com.
While Strugis’ missed kicks may have cost the Eagles some games earlier in the season, Parkey has been missing those kicks at camp thus far. On Sunday’s practice at Lincoln Financial Field, for instance, Parkey was so far wide left on one 48-yard attempt, he missed the net behind the goalpost and the ball sailed into the seats.
The handful of kicks reporters anecdotally have seen Parkey miss this summer isn’t reason to panic just yet. That being said, he realizes too that there’s a bit of catching up to do.
“Having a lot of reps is really important for me because I didn’t get a lot of them this past year,” said Parkey. “I’m getting better every day. I’m going to miss some here and there, but as long as I’m getting better, that’s all I can ask for right now.”
Parkey broke the Eagles’ single-season points record as a rookie, connecting on 32 of 36 field goal attempts en route to the Pro Bowl. It became increasingly clear something was wrong early last season though when just three of his 11 kickoffs went for touchbacks compared to 46.9 percent the year before.
“It’s part of the game,” Parkey said matter-of-factly, adding that the injured leg feels good. “It’s what you sign up for. If you don’t get injured in your career, you’re pretty fortunate.
“It’s just a minor setback for a major comeback. I’m ready to roll and I’m really looking forward to the days that are coming.”
Practice resumes this morning at 8:05. Pederson is scheduled to speak afterwards.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.