Jordan Hicks rescued the Cardinals’ defense from an ignominious start to the preseason on Thursday night.
The Chargers drove down the field with ease until the veteran inside linebacker stripped running back Austin Ekeler of the ball at the 2-yard-line and recovered it himself.
It wasn’t the first time coach Kliff Kingsbury saw Hicks make a play like that, and after inking him to a four-year, $36 million deal in free agency, doesn’t expect it to be the last.
“He’s definitely kind of a ballhawk,” Kingsbury said. “I remember the first practice in spring, I think he had a pick-six. He’s around it, has a great feel for spatial awareness and where the ball is going to go. That’s exciting to see as a coach.”
The Cardinals only forced 16 turnovers a season ago and would love to see an uptick in 2019. They had five in a road win over the 49ers and never more than two in any other game.
Hicks didn’t get top-of- the-market money on the open market due to his injury history, but has routinely been a productive performer when on the field. His only full season came back in 2016, and Hicks finished that campaign with five interceptions and a fumble recovery.
On Thursday, a little motivation from outside linebacker Chandler Jones went a long way in his first takeaway with the Cardinals.
“Chandler told me, ‘Go make a play,’” Hicks said after the game. “Said I had to get a strip. He asked me how I did it, so I had to do it for him.”
KINGSBURY HAPPY WITH MURRAY’S DEBUT
Kingsbury’s tape review backed up his initial impression of Kyler Murray’s debut performance. The rookie quarterback finished 6-of-7 for 44 yards in one series of work, with the lone incompletion coming because KeeSean Johnson stepped out of bounds before catching a pass.
“I think he made good, quick decisions,” Kingsbury said. “It was a small sample size, but just like we’ve seen, he diagnoses defenses well. He’s cerebral. I thought his operation was really good. He had some checks that were exactly what we wanted to get into. For kind of a limited menu, I thought he executed at a high level.”
Murray said after the game he was pining to go back in, and throughout the week he had lobbied Kingsbury for more exotic wrinkles than the Cardinals showed.
“He asked for all sorts of plays – (quarterback) keeps and all sort of stuff – throughout the week,” Kingsbury said. “I knew that was coming. But we have a plan, and we’re going to stick to the plan.”
MURPHY, ISABELLA EXPECTED TO PLAY THURSDAY
The Cardinals didn’t have either of their second-round picks on the field against the Chargers, as cornerback Byron Murphy (foot) and wide receiver Andy Isabella (knee) sat with injuries. That is expected to change on Thursday against the Raiders.
“I would expect both of those guys to practice and play this week,” Kingsbury said. “I know they’re anxious to get out there in their first NFL action.”
Safety Josh Shaw injured his shoulder against Los Angeles and could miss a week or two, Kingsbury said. Wide receiver Kevin White (hamstring) didn’t play against the Chargers and will also sit out this week. Kingsbury said linebacker Haason Reddick (knee) is “on track” with his recovery, which is likely to have him back in time for the regular season opener.
Images of the Cardinals cheerleaders during Thursday's preseason opener