Jordan Hicks Is A Perfect Fit Next To Eric Kendricks

Photo Credit: Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Vikings fans have some questions about the recent Jordan Hicks signing. Is he Anthony Barr‘s replacement? Why was he so affordable? Well, he doesn’t play the same position as Barr, and he had a down year (in some regards) with the Arizona Cardinals. But it’s much deeper than that, and he is an excellent fit with the Vikings’ new 3-4 defense.

But why is he such a good fit? Let me explain.

The Philadelphia Eagles drafted Hicks in the third round of the 2015 NFL draft, just 39 picks after the Vikings picked Kendricks. Bleacher Report’s scouting report compared him to Kendricks’ brother, Mychal. The same Mychal Kendricks he’d soon be playing alongside on the Eagles.

Philly drafted Hicks to play in a 3-4, but the team then transitioned to a 4-3 in 2016 after hiring Jim Schwartz as their defensive coordinator. And Hicks was fantastic as the lone MLB in the 2016 season. He was the third-highest-rated LB in the NFL, per PFF. And he had the best coverage rating to boot.

Hicks was great but missed some time due to injury with the Eagles. Still, he was a hot commodity when he hit free agency in 2019 because of his pass-coverage ability and athleticism. The Arizona Cardinals signed him to a four-year, $34 million contract, but they forced him to transition into a 3-4 scheme.

Hicks regressed in Arizona, but he wasn’t bad. He’s consistently been a playmaker and solid tackler, but his pass-coverage ratings dipped from his sophomore season. However, that doesn’t mean he won’t be an excellent fit in Minnesota.

“Just looking at last year, there were two linebackers in the NFL with 100-plus tackles and four interceptions,” Kevin O’Connell said, introducing Hicks. “And those two guys will be playing linebacker for our team now with Eric Kendricks and obviously Jordan Hicks.”

The actual stat is four sacks rather than interceptions, but it’s still a good statistic. Hicks has transitioned his game to be a good pass rusher in the middle, just like Kendricks has. Last year, Hicks had his best-rated pass-rushing season and the most sacks in a season in his career.

That might not sound promising from a coverage standpoint, but Kendricks is consistently one of the best MLBs in pass coverage. Now that they have both found a niche, they are a good fit for pressuring the line of scrimmage and dropping back into coverage.

When asked about his excitement to play with Kendricks, Hicks said, “It was a big part of my decision. I’ve looked up to his game since we both came in the league.”

Kendricks is 30, so he’s not going to be explosive forever. Now Kendricks can share responsibilities with Hicks. They are both still versatile but have complementary skillsets. That should lead to packages with the two MLBs to confuse opponents.

The Vikings signed Hicks to a very fair contract. He’s a starting-quality MLB, and the Vikings signed him to a two-year, $10 million deal. He and Kendricks together are making less than the three highest-paid MLBs and tied for fourth in the NFL.

Signing Hicks was a straightforward decision for the front office. His athleticism and professionalism are great for this team. He’s a model leader. If he can step up and help give this year’s defense an identity, he will be worth well more than the Vikings paid.

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