Grinding The Tape: New Bucs DT Hicks

Nicely, this was sudden. I had a wonderfully enjoyable Grinding the Tape prepared for y’all on new Bucs extensive receiver Russell Gage. I despatched out tweets about it with a number of 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 deal with 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 popularity as an iron-man within the league.

Nevertheless, what Hicks could lack in sturdiness he greater than makes up for in cross rush skill. 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 transferring past the standard field rating let’s take a look at Hicks’ cross rush on a snap-to-snap foundation. Just lately, I went in depth on strain percentages and conversion charges when predicting sack totals for Bucs cross rushers. Wanting on the strain charge 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 men like Fletcher Cox, Dexter Lawrence and Grady Jarrett from a manufacturing standpoint. And it represents an improve over Suh who has maintained a strain charge of seven.7% over the previous three seasons.

What does that strain appear to be? Let’s have a look.

First Step

With any good cross rusher their ability set normally begins with their first step. And Hicks (No. 96) has an electrical one, even at 32 years outdated and after his historical past of accidents. Watch him explode off the road each vertically and laterally on this play in opposition to the Rams.

No cross rusher has any shot at affecting Stafford on this bubble display. However I don’t care about that. This highlights so nicely Hicks’ go off the road. In watching him it turned obvious his quickness can typically shock offensive linemen.

Right here is yet another in opposition to the Rams. I made a decision to not add a slow-motion impact so you possibly can see in actual time how fast Hicks can soar off the snap. On this case it was so quick Rams middle Brian Allen had no selection 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 provide him favorable cross rush angles. He doesn’t function with a ton of cross rush strikes. He has a very good long-arm and an honest swim. Each every so often 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 in opposition to the Vikings.

As Hicks makes his manner 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 impression Cousins’ throw inflicting an incompletion and a fourth down.

To have the ability to accomplish this Hicks exhibits a substantial amount of hip flexibility. To contour his physique the best way 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 make the most of the window. It’s actually spectacular.

Right here you see it once more when he makes use of this extensive swim transfer proper from the soar. In executing Hicks has put himself on the middle’s hip. That’s not precisely supreme as a blocker. Fortunate for the middle the suitable 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 suitable guard would have needed to have interaction him as a substitute, and the middle would have had no assistance on Hicks.

Bull Rush

Hicks is ready to arrange these altered cross 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 velocity to energy and simply bully linemen who lack a robust anchor.

Nothing fancy right here. Simply bodily domination. Hicks will get off the road fast, will get into the suitable guard’s chest with leverage, and drives him straight into Joe Burrow.

Listed below are two extra in opposition to the Rams.

I might say that is Hicks’ most popular manner 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 have the ability to drive blockers backwards.

Move Rush Arsenal

Now I discussed earlier Hicks doesn’t depend on cross 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 couple of tips up his sleeve. Earlier you noticed the swim. Listed below are two extra strikes he’ll flash.

Right here in opposition to Cincinnati he makes use of an extended arm with a stable punch to drive the guard again and in direction of the skin. This permits Hicks to come back 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 likely to be 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 cross rusher. More often than not when two blockers have dedicated themselves to stopping you from transferring ahead it’ll occur. Nevertheless, the perfect inside rushers discover a solution to nonetheless impression the play. And that’s precisely what Hicks has proven he can do.

Hicks is absolutely 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 choose 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 cross 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 nicely as a run defender through the years. Will Hicks have the ability to substitute that stage of manufacturing? I consider 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 some of these runs and extra. Regardless of the accidents, his age, and the truth that he’s a giant deal with at 335 kilos, Hicks nonetheless strikes nicely.

Watch as Hicks strikes down the road with velocity and suddenness. He is ready to meet the ballcarrier shortly for a minimal acquire. It will play nicely 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 in opposition to 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 velocity again to his left to interact the play on the assault level. In doing so he forces the pulling tight finish to attempt to block him as a substitute of the second-level defender he ought to have been looking for. That enables the linebacker to come back clear and make the deal with.

What To Count on

This signing is strictly 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 total grade final 12 months. By comparability, Suh earned a 49.4 total grade.

On a per snap foundation Hicks continues to be an especially proficient participant who may give the Bucs’ cross rush a component it was lacking final 12 months. Particularly, a constantly efficient inside rusher to pair with Professional Bowl nostril deal with Vita Vea.

The query is what number of snaps can the crew fairly anticipate out of a participant who missed half of final season as a consequence of damage and shall be 33 years outdated by the top of the season? With the addition of rookie Logan Corridor, I hope the Bucs use Hicks in a robust rotation that limits his snap depend to round 50%. It will hopefully assist mitigate his damage threat whereas additionally holding him recent and efficient.

Between Corridor, Vea, and Will Gholston the crew 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 cross rush to new heights in 2022.