Jordan Hicks has made Cardinals top 2021 draft pick an afterthought

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) Jordan Hicks
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) Jordan Hicks /

The Arizona Cardinals came to the realization that Jordan Hicks is a better option than Zaven Collins at the current time.

At some point during the 2021 offseason, the Arizona Cardinals hierarchy realized that they had made a mistake.

In hindsight, the decision to hand the starting inside linebacker job to a rookie who had not yet stepped onto a practice field was hardly an intelligent one. To their credit, the Cards were able to admit that Jordan Hicks is a much better option than Zaven Collins is at this point in their NFL careers.

The hope within the Cardinals organization is that Collins, the club’s first-round pick back in April, will eventually live up to his potential. When it came down to it, however, Hicks was not ready to hand the torch to the youngster. The 29-year-old was apparently motivated by his temporary demotion, and the Arizona defense is now benefitting from the superb play of Hicks.

Through the first 11 weeks of the 2021 campaign, Hicks is leading the Redbirds in tackles with 82. To go along with those stops, the 6-foot-1, 236-pounder has also contributed three sacks, three pass breakups, and two fumble recoveries in 11 starts for the squad.

Arizona Cardinals relegated Jordan Hicks to backup status during the NFL Draft

The numbers that Hicks has posted are even more impressive when you consider the fact that he was told by the Cards that he’d be a backup this fall. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury let that cat out of the bag when he told Collins that “there ain’t no redshirting” just moments after the 22-year-old was drafted by the franchise.

Hicks couldn’t have been pleased with what certainly could’ve been perceived as an insult. The Cardinals’ front office gave the veteran permission to seek a trade, but nothing ever materialized on that front. But instead of sulking, Hicks warded off the top selection’s challenge by thoroughly outplaying Collins during the preseason and training camp.

Opening day came around, and there was Hicks, occupying his familiar position in the middle of coordinator Vance Joseph’s much-improved unit. Now, as the Cards enjoy a badly-needed week 12 bye, the former University of Texas product remains the starter. Hicks has been in on a whopping 95.6 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, while Collins has occupied the field for just 27.3 percent of the plays.

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The situation that went down at inside linebacker this past offseason should’ve taught the Arizona brass a lesson. Never concede a starting gig to a first-year performer before he has earned it. The Cardinals front office had egg on their faces after what they did to Hicks, and they’d be wise not to make that blunder again in the future.