Cardinals Prove Smart Fit For Jordan Hicks

Cardinals linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) gets ready before a play against the Lions last week.
Cardinals linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) gets ready before a play against the Lions last week.

Jordan Hicks was still lamenting this week the plays he did not make against the Lions, typical for a player after watching the previous game’s video.

There is little question, though, that the inside linebacker was in the opener exactly what the Cardinals hoped he’d be when he signed as a free agent this offseason. Hicks was credited with 16 total tackles against Detroit, 13 solo, with two for loss.

“I was in position for a lot of plays,” Hicks said. “We’re trying to put it together as a group. I just personally want to continue to try and build my understanding how we are trying to attack. I really like this defense a lot. Plain and simple, I like this defense a lot for a linebacker.”

The Cardinals should be in good shape at linebacker. Hicks is off to his strong start, and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said Haason Reddick is back and healthy and should play more on base downs – Reddick had a regular role in sub-packages against the Lions coming off his knee surgery. That speed should aid in dealing with dynamic Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Joe Walker still could get some work in running situations instead of Reddick, but Hicks figures to be an every-down guy. That was the Cardinals’ plan for Hicks, and Joseph was happy with Hicks’ work against both the run and pass against the Lions. Beyond that, it’s Hicks’ leadership that Joseph appreciates.

“Jordan has been awesome from day one, as far as football IQ,” Joseph said. “He kind of puts your vision into work. … It goes through Jordan’s IQ. I can be complicated sometimes.”

KINGSBURY AS “THIEF”

Coach Kliff Kingsbury is constantly working on his play designs, and while the Ravens have complimented him this week about his history of plays – plays that are sometimes used on the NFL level now – Kingsbury said he never once second-guessed himself for showing too much of his offense in college.

“You’re always going to put your best foot forward in terms of your game-planning,” Kingsbury said. “I take a ton from everybody. I’m probably the biggest thief of concepts and gadgetry. I usually at least cite where I got it from in the postgame -- if it works.”

THE RAVENS’ RUN GAME, AND DEALING WITH JACKSON

The popular thought was that teams could stack the box against the Ravens to slow the run and to stifle Jackson, whose rookie season was built on running the ball himself. Then he threw five touchdowns against the Dolphins.

“Well, we thought we could (load the box) until last weekend,” Joseph said.

That makes it tough on a defense, especially since the Ravens also have an excellent offensive line and and burly running back Mark Ingram, who surpassed 100 yards in the opener himself.

“It’s a PhD run game,” Joseph said.

Hicks said it was difficult to get much out of the Dolphins tape – Miami was “running a few different things,” he said – but at least the Cardinals got a sense of how the Ravens want to attack. Hicks also said defending Kyler Murray all offseason and training camp will help against Jackson.

“We weren’t sitting back watching the quarterback under center and the basic offense, we had to defend some dynamic and tough-to-read plays,” Hicks said. “We now have a reference when we are talking about Baltimore, when we are watching film, we can reference back to what we did in training camp. But this offense is very explosive, dynamic, they run the ball, they are strong up front. As dynamic as they are, they are just as powerful in the run game.”

BULLARD QUESTIONABLE FOR SUNDAY

The Cardinals are relatively injury free, with only offensive lineman Lamont Gaillard (knee) out and backup defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard (hamstring) questionable. Everyone else is available to play.

For the Ravens, starting cornerback Jimmy Smith (knee) is out. Tight end Mark Andrews (foot), wide receiver Marquise Brown (hip), linebacker Tyus Bowser, cornerback Marlon Humphrey (back) and running back Mark Ingram (shoulder) are all officially questionable, although Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Andrews and Brown will play and Ingram practiced fully Friday.

Images from practice at the Dignity Health Arizona Cardinals Training Center

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