A Veteran Viking Will Be Rejuvenated by Brian Flores’ Defense in 2023
The Minnesota Vikings brought in veteran LB Jordan Hicks last offseason to help build Ed Donatell’s 3-4 defensive scheme.
However, Donatell’s plan did not work in Minnesota last year, and as a result, he was fired and in came Brian Flores to take over the defensive coordinator role. Now, in 2023, veteran Viking LB Jordan Hicks will feel the positive effects of this change in philosophy. Here’s a look at how Hicks has found success in the past, and what his role could look like with the 2023 Vikings.
Jordan Hicks was an absolute stud at the linebacker position coming out of high school. When the recruit committed to Texas, he was the No. 5 recruit in the entire nation and the very best linebacker according to 24/7 Sports.
Hicks lived up to they hype throughout his five-year career with the Longhorns recording a total of 248 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 6 passes defended, and a pair of interceptions. Texas made bowl appearances during four of his five seasons in the program.
The production by Hicks throughout college earned him a third-round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, who snagged him with the 84th overall selection.
The linebacker would spend his first four seasons in Philadelphia, including their Super Bowl championship in 2017, playing 43 games and making 40 starts. He recorded a grand total of 254 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 19 passes defended, and 7 interceptions. Five of those INTs came during 2016.
Following the end of his rookie deal, Hicks signed a four-year deal worth $34 million with the Arizona Cardinals. This is truly where he found his calling as a physical, run-stuffer at the linebacker position. While Arizona terminated his contract following the 2021 season, he started every possible game for Arizona (49) and recorded 384 tackles, 29 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 15 passes defended, and 4 interceptions.
He then landed in Minnesota for the 2022 season and put together 129 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, a forced fumble, 10 passes defended, and an interception. Now, he is hoping to build off that year in 2023.
Hicks’ Potential Impact on the Vikings Defense in 2023
As previously mentioned, especially with Arizona, Hicks emerged as a guy who could line up all over the field. He was able to mix it up with the guys in the trenches, and his run-stopping ability proved to be a terrific quality. During his three years in Arizona, he never blitzed fewer than 49 times. In both 2019 and 2020 he eclipsed 85 blitzes as well (according to Pro-Football-Reference).
Then, as soon as he got to Minnesota, the Vikings essentially stopped using him in this way. He was sent on just 17 blitzes over the course of the season, easily the lowest number of his career (PFR began tracking the stat in 2018).
In a Brian Flores defense, the expectation is that the Vikings will be blitzing much more often. During his final two years as the Miami Dolphins head coach, Flores’ defenses ranked second in blitz percentage while the 2022 Vikings had the ninth-lowest percentage of blitzes.
Especially with the potential emergences of both Brian Asamoah and Lewis Cine in this new defensive scheme, Hicks should find himself with plenty of opportunities to make plays once again in 2023.
The major question mark regarding Hicks is his age. The linebacker turned 31 years old back in June, and he is very likely on the tail-end of his career. While some LBs are able to play well into their mid-30s, it’s very rare to see them put together 10-plus years of superb play.
The other matter regarding Hicks’ role with the Vikings comes in pass coverage. What if the young cornerback room simply isn’t capable of holding up in a man-to-man scheme? If that is the case, Minnesota may have no choice other than to offer the group some help by dropping linebackers in coverage. This has never been Hicks’ strongsuit (recording PFF grades in the 50s over three of the past four years in this department).
Predicting Hicks’ Role
Ultimately, Hicks’ role should look very different in the Vikings defense during 2023 than it did in 2022. His 555 coverage snaps last year were the third-most of his career, and the most he’s had in a season since his first year with Arizona during 2019.
If the Vikings plan on using their linebackers as blitzers this year, there is a very good chance that Hicks rejuvenates his career after a rather pedestrian 2022 season. It will be exciting to see what the high-flying LB can do in 2023.
NOTE: This article originally appeared on our sister-site, PurplePTSD.com
Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.