LB Jordan Hicks Believes Cardinals 'Improved Tremendously' with Personnel Changes
It has been an offseason full of change for the Arizona Cardinals and the NFL Draft has not even happened yet. One of the biggest beneficiaries of the new acquisitions has been the linebacker corps.
The franchise signed two potential starters in Devon Kennard and De'Vondre Campbell for the inside and outside, respectively. Kennard adds a versatile pass rushing threat opposite Pro Bowler Chandler Jones, while Campbell provides a consistent 100-plus tackle producer alongside Jordan Hicks on the inside.
On a video conference with reporters Thursday, Hicks was not sheepish about the new guys in his room.
"To have somebody (Campbell) next to me that has his his type of athletic ability and his ability to be all over the field is just going to open everything else for us," he said. "It's going be fun to play with somebody like that.
"And then Kennard, I don't know him personally. I know people that know him and speak very highly about him. Excited to get to work with him and obviously his stats speak for themselves. He can get after the quarterback and hopefully open things up for Chandler and the rest of the line."
With the NFL not conducting business as usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has made Hicks and his teammates' urge to get on the field that much stronger.
"It's exciting," Hicks said. "It's wild because it gives you that itch to come back and get to work. When you see moves like that, you realize the potential that you have, you realize the excitement."
Hicks is especially eager to get started with the new defensive guys on the roster.
"If you look at it, we've added the (defensive) tackle (Jordan Phillips), added some linebackers," Hicks said. "I think our front seven is, right now at this point, probably improved tremendously. Anytime you get a high-profile D-tackle (who will likely be an end in the team's 3-4 scheme), it makes your linebackers play that much better. Any time you get somebody that can rush on the other side of the top rusher in the league (Jones), it's going to make your front seven that much better.
"We've improved up front, but when you get a pass rush, when you can have somebody that takes pressure off of Chandler, a couple guys that can take pressure off Chandler, it also improves your ability to get after the quarterback and the corners, the safeties, the linebackers, we all appreciate that in the pass game too. So, I think as we keep adding guys, as we go through the draft, we're just building. This thing is rolling right now. I'm really excited with where we're at."
Defensive personnel is not the only area that has been addressed this offseason. Arguably the biggest splash was the Cardinals' trade with the Houston Texans for wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in exchange for running back David Johnson.
"Love it," Hicks said of the trade. "I got to know David really well this past season and we talked through the offseason some and it's going to be tough to see him go, but at the same time when you get a trade like that and an opportunity to get somebody to match up on the outside that — it changes the whole dynamic of the offense. Defenses are going to have to choose, do you double cover him? Do you stop the run now? We're bringing (Kenyan Drake) back.
"Do you take somebody out of coverage to spy (quarterback) Kyler (Murray)? Defenses are going to have to pick their poison at this point. You can't sit back and pass-rush three against this dude because he'll scramble all over the place on you. There's no perfect scenario now in going against our offense, especially with this dynamic. It's going to completely change the whole dynamic. You've got (wide receiver Christian) Kirk and you've got (wide receiver) Larry (Fitzgerald). I think it's going to spread the field wide open, it's going to make the whole thing run smooth."
Overall, Hicks wants to improve upon last year's 5-10-1 record and elevate the franchise to the point he knows it can get to. It's one of the top priorities for the inside linebacker.
"I said it last year, the reason I came here was because you could tell the direction this team was going," Hicks said. "You could tell where (general manager) Steve (Keim) wanted to take it, where (head coach) Kliff (Kingsbury) wanted to take it and where this coaching staff wanted to take it. And so to see the moves happening, to see all of that vision coming into fruition — obviously there's a lot of things that have to be done on our end, a lot of work that's got to be put into it. But when you put pieces together that are exciting like that it's fun."