- Sep 14, 2002
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- Scottsdale, Az
Red bird redemption: Why time is the secret ingredient to Vance Joseph’s dominant Cardinals defense
In a league where change and turnover can sabotage regimes before they've gotten started, Arizona has shown the power of patience.
This is just a massive article on the Cardinals defense. This is a tiny piece on Hicks and Collins. If you don't have The Athletic, it is a great subscription
ix months ago, Jordan Hicks thought his days as a Cardinal might be over. In May, and for the second time in as many seasons, Arizona had drafted a linebacker in the first round. In a rare move for any team, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim publicly stated that rookie Zaven Collins would immediately slide into a starting role.
Hicks got the message: The team’s brass believed that he’d outlasted his usefulness. He requested a trade this summer, but when no deal materialized, he was left with a choice that may ultimately shape his legacy in Arizona. “I had to have a tough conversation with myself,” Hicks said. “Look in the mirror and say, ‘Who do you want to be?’ How do you want to be remembered? How do you want your kids to see you? At the end of the day, what do you represent?'”
The sometimes-awkward dynamic between an established veteran and the young player tasked with replacing him wasn’t new for Hicks. When he was selected by Philadelphia in the third round of the 2015 draft, Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans was in his 10th and final NFL season. From the start, Ryans was an invaluable resource for Hicks, no matter the succession plan. Each day, Hicks got a front-row seat to what it looked like for a player to be a leader and a professional — a mentor who showed him how to study film, how to carry himself in the building, how to wear a grin on his face while remaining deeply serious about the job.
“I just thought back on that time, thinking about how (Ryans) treated me, knowing that they had brought me in to kind of be that next step,” Hicks said. “It happened probably faster than everybody thought, but it’s the process that we go through in the NFL at some point.”
So Hicks made his choice. He’d pay the generosity forward: “When I met Zaven, I told him, ‘I’ve been a rookie once. I’ve been in your shoes. I’m gonna help.'”