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New Browns LB Jordan Hicks Eager To Re-Unite With Jim Schwartz In Cleveland

The ex-Eagles linebacker is excited to join the top defense in football from a season ago and believes the Browns are building something special.

There's something about Jim Schwartz that keeps his former players coming back for more. 

Take it from new Browns linebacker Jordan Hicks. He played in Schwartz system in Philadelphia from 2016-2018 and thrived. When he left to join the Cardinals in 2019 before spending the last two years in Minnesota, he didn't necessarily think he'd ever play for the defensive guru ever again. As fate would have it their paths are crossing again, in Cleveland of all places. 

Hicks signed a two-year deal with the Browns this week. The gravitational pull of Schwartz was part of what lured Hicks back to his home state.

"Knowing who he is, knowing what he brings energy-wise, knowing what he brings mentally to a team, to a culture," Hicks began," and understanding his part in how to build a group of guys to achieve something special. Excited to be a part of it, excited for another opportunity to play for him."

Hicks' first go-around with Schwartz came in just his second year in the league. After being drafted by the Eagles in 2015 he appeared in eight games that fall and made an immediate impact, compiling 50 tackles, a handful of pass breakups and two interceptions – one of which he returned for a 67-yard touchdown.

In stepped Schwartz in 2016, who instantly put a lot of trust in a young Hicks to be the eyes and ears of the defense at middle linebacker. Hicks excelled, starting all 16 games for Philly and watched his tackle numbers increase to 85, including six for a loss. He also snared three more interceptions for a total of five, and broke up 11 passes.

Oct 1, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) reacts in the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium.

Oct 1, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) reacts in the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium.

He could play free and fast and, as just a 24-year-old, he quickly found his voice as a leader. Schwartz helped bring out the best of Hicks.

"One thing about Jim and his defense is it’s concise," Hicks explained. "You know your role and you know how offenses are going to attack you. When I look back on my career and I look back at the times and the years that I played as clear-minded as I ever have, it was with him, it was those years with Coach Schwartz."

Those years with Schwartz produced football's ultimate prize just one year later in 2017. Unfortunately the veteran linebacker missed the Philadelphia's magical postseason run after suffering a torn ACL seven games into the campaign. Seven years later he sees Cleveland as an opportunity to chase Lombardi trophies again. 

"I’m going into year ten, right," asked Hicks. "I want to win. I played on teams that don’t win, and it’s not fun to play this game. So when you’re on an organization that takes it as serious as the Browns do and have an expectation of doing more than what is just acceptable, that’s what good teams do.”

The Browns fully remain in win-now mode entering 2024. Nearly two years ago to the date general manager Andrew Berry traded three first round picks to the Texans for quarterback Deshaun Watson. He followed it up last offseason by remodeling the defense to the liking of Schwartz, who then became the architect behind the NFL's No. 1 unit in 2023.

Schwartz was also an important addition for the Browns cultural evolution. As Cleveland battled an excessive list of season-ending injuries last season, Schwartz the team and his defense focused on what they could control. Despite missing different key players over the course of a 17-game slate, the defense didn't seem to miss a beat as reserve players stepped in and picked up Schwartz system flawlessly. 

That ability to pass the baton down the depth chart is what kept the Browns season on the tracks and helped ear the franchise a second playoff berth in four seasons. It was truly a testament to the newly established culture, something Hicks has seen before from that Super Bowl winning Eagles team.

"That was the case for us in ’17," said Hicks. "A lot of us were hurt. It wasn’t just me. It was Carson Wentz who was on an MVP run. It was Jason Peters, Darren Sproles and Chris Maragos. It was a whole list of guys who were impactful on that team and the guys that stepped up believed in each other. And there was a culture that was built in that it didn’t matter who was on the sideline, didn’t matter who was on the field they were going to ride for each other. That’s how important culture is and that’s why it’s something that’s a focal point."

After last year's memorable run to the playoffs, Cleveland's cultural reputation proceeds itself. Which made Hicks' decision to sign on the dotted line that much easier.

"I've heard amazing things about the culture here," Hicks said. "Just from my few hours in the building, you can tell it's something special. So you know, it's hard to compare. right with it being I haven't met really any of the guys yet. But at the same time, you know, that culture within a building can it can propel you to win the type of games that a lot of people don't expect you to win."