Nicely, this was sudden. I had a wonderfully enjoyable Grinding the Tape prepared for y’all on new Bucs broad receiver Russell Gage. I despatched out tweets about it with among the clips I used to be most excited to share. Then the Bucs needed to go and flip the script on all of us by signing free agent defensive sort out Akiem Hicks to a one-year deal value as much as $10 million.
Hicks represents an attention-grabbing gamble for the Bucs. Whereas proficient, he has been beleaguered by accidents over the previous a number of years, lacking 20 of 49 video games over the previous three seasons. This can be a far cry from Ndamukong Suh who has constructed a status as an iron-man within the league.
Nevertheless, what Hicks might lack in sturdiness he greater than makes up for in move rush means. He has racked up 40.5 sacks, six pressured fumbles, six fumbles recovered, and 9 passes defensed over 110 begins throughout 10 seasons.
Hicks As A Move Rusher
However shifting past the standard field rating let’s have a look at Hicks’ move rush on a snap-to-snap foundation. Just lately, I went in depth on stress percentages and conversion charges when predicting sack totals for Bucs move rushers. Wanting on the stress fee for Hicks over his previous three seasons and he has held regular at only a couple ticks above 9%. That places him within the firm of fellows like Fletcher Cox, Dexter Lawrence and Grady Jarrett from a manufacturing standpoint. And it represents an improve over Suh who has maintained a stress fee of seven.7% over the previous three seasons.
What does that stress appear to be? Let’s have a look.
With any good move rusher their talent set often begins with their first step. And Hicks (No. 96) has an electrical one, even at 32 years previous and after his historical past of accidents. Watch him explode off the road each vertically and laterally on this play towards the Rams.
No move rusher has any shot at affecting Stafford on this bubble display screen. However I don’t care about that. This highlights so effectively Hicks’ go off the road. In watching him it turned obvious his quickness can usually shock offensive linemen.
Right here is another towards the Rams. I made a decision to not add a slow-motion impact so you may see in actual time how fast Hicks can leap off the snap. On this case it was so quick Rams middle Brian Allen had no alternative however to bear hug Hicks to maintain him from blowing up the within of the pocket.
Setting Up Move Rush Angles
Essentially the most enjoyable a part of watching Hicks work for me was seeing him arrange offensive linemen to present him favorable move rush angles. He doesn’t function with a ton of move rush strikes. He has a great long-arm and an honest swim. Each from time to time he’ll flash a dip. However he doesn’t want a ton of strikes as a result of he creates angles that permit him to blow by blockers as a result of they will’t sq. him up correctly. Watch as he does simply that towards the Vikings.
As Hicks makes his method up-field he begins to torque his physique laterally. The guard makes an attempt to reflect him and in doing so opens up a gap to the within. Hicks exploits this gap by crossing the guard’s face and crashing in on Kirk Cousins. He in the end is ready to affect Cousins’ throw inflicting an incompletion and a fourth down.
To have the ability to accomplish this Hicks exhibits quite a lot of hip flexibility. To contour his physique the way in which he does he’s working throughout a number of planes of motion which are simply very troublesome for inside offensive linemen to match. He has to start out with lateral dexterity to arrange the transfer and end with burst and acceleration to reap the benefits of the window. It’s actually spectacular.
Right here you see it once more when he makes use of this broad swim transfer proper from the leap. In executing Hicks has put himself on the middle’s hip. That’s not precisely very best as a blocker. Fortunate for the middle the fitting guard is ready to assist and sluggish Hicks from attending to Cousins earlier than the throw. Now think about if Alec Ogeltree (No. 44) had maintained his authentic rush path. The best guard would have needed to have interaction him as an alternative, and the middle would have had no assistance on Hicks.
Hicks is ready to arrange these altered move rush lanes for himself as a result of blockers need to respect his bull rush. With the aforementioned go off the road, he capable of convert pace to energy and simply bully linemen who lack a powerful anchor.
Nothing fancy right here. Simply bodily domination. Hicks will get off the road fast, will get into the fitting guard’s chest with leverage, and drives him straight into Joe Burrow.
Listed here are two extra towards the Rams.
I might say that is Hicks’ most well-liked method of successful and the remainder of his sport grows from the bull rush. And regardless of accidents to his proper ankle, knee, hamstring, and groin through the years the Bucs ought to anticipate him to nonetheless be capable to drive blockers backwards.
Move Rush Arsenal
Now I discussed earlier Hicks doesn’t depend on move rush strikes as a lot as others may. It’s not that he isn’t a technician. I might argue the other. He’s consistently establishing blockers. He simply makes use of his athleticism to do it moderately than a bunch of strikes. That’s to not say he doesn’t have a number of tips up his sleeve. Earlier you noticed the swim. Listed here are two extra strikes he’ll flash.
Right here towards Cincinnati he makes use of a protracted arm with a strong punch to drive the guard again and in direction of the surface. This enables Hicks to return throughout his face with a direct line to Burrow on an inside path.
Right here he wins with a easy however efficient dip-and-rip. At first, I assumed it is perhaps only a rip transfer, however he swipes the guard’s palms away and dips beneath the block. Hicks rips his proper arm upwards to clear the guard and get to the quarterback, turning the nook with conviction.
Hicks In opposition to Double Groups
Double groups are troublesome for any move rusher. More often than not when two blockers have dedicated themselves to stopping you from shifting ahead it’s going to occur. Nevertheless, the perfect inside rushers discover a approach to nonetheless affect the play. And that’s precisely what Hicks has proven he can do.
Hicks is admittedly the driving power on this play. His go off the road forces the guard to assist the middle. Even with the assistance Hicks is ready to drive each gamers again into Burrows grill. It doing so, he removes the guard from with the ability to decide up Ogeltree on the delayed blitz. The again tries to, however Ogeltree is ready to sidestep him and arrive at Burrow simply as he’s throwing. The deflected move ends in an interception.
Crosses the guard. Drives the middle again. Impacts the throw. Textbook.
I’ll go away this part with simply two extra clips with no evaluation. It’s simply enjoyable to observe Hicks work and produce down passers.
Hicks In Run Protection
With the lack of Suh, the Bucs lose a participant who has graded effectively as a run defender through the years. Will Hicks be capable to change that stage of manufacturing? I imagine he’ll. As I detailed on an earlier installment of this sequence, final 12 months Suh’s run protection had begun to slide. I attribute this to his age catching up with him and his athleticism waning. This brought on him to need to cheat in some areas, leaving him out of place to make performs. This was particularly evident on outdoors zone runs.
Hicks nonetheless exhibits he has the athleticism to defend a lot of these runs and extra. Regardless of the accidents, his age, and the truth that he’s a giant sort out at 335 kilos, Hicks nonetheless strikes effectively.
Watch as Hicks strikes down the road with pace and suddenness. He is ready to meet the ballcarrier rapidly for a minimal achieve. This may play effectively with Bucs head coach Todd Bowles.
On this one he helps seal the sting and power the runner again to the within the place he has assist to cease the play.
And it’s not simply zone runs that he’s efficient towards both. Watch as Hicks makes use of his measurement and energy to stone the guard attempting to push him again and to his proper. Then he flashes the lateral agility to maneuver with pace again to his left to have interaction the play on the assault level. In doing so he forces the pulling tight finish to attempt to block him as an alternative of the second-level defender he ought to have been trying to find. That permits the linebacker to return clear and make the sort out.
What To Anticipate
This signing is precisely what many Bucs followers have been clamoring for. It’s an indication of Tampa Bay being “all-in.” At this stage in his profession, Hicks’ tape again up his PFF numbers. PFF gave Hicks a 72.3 general grade final 12 months. By comparability, Suh earned a 49.4 general grade.
On a per snap foundation Hicks remains to be a particularly proficient participant who may give the Bucs’ move rush a component it was lacking final 12 months. Particularly, a constantly efficient inside rusher to pair with Professional Bowl nostril sort out Vita Vea.
The query is what number of snaps can the group moderately anticipate out of a participant who missed half of final season attributable to damage and shall be 33 years previous by the tip of the season? With the addition of rookie Logan Corridor, I hope the Bucs use Hicks in a powerful rotation that limits his snap rely to round 50%. This may hopefully assist mitigate his damage danger whereas additionally conserving him contemporary and efficient.
Between Corridor, Vea, and Will Gholston the group has sufficient high quality inside linemen the place the Bucs mustn’t need to lean on Hicks to be a +50 snap/sport participant. If he can keep wholesome search for Hicks to assist elevate Tampa Bay’s move rush to new heights in 2022.
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