November 11, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (76) against the Atlanta Falcons prior to kickoff of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
For the next few weeks, this miniseries will be exploring the Saints future defensive stars on the roster now. Whether they have proved this through their play in NFL games, college games, or their most recent practices, these players will help to change the perception of the Saints defense in the eyes of fans and foes alike. This will be a steep hill to climb but, as you will see, the Saints have some great prospects of the future.
This week, Akiem Hicks is the focus. His stats aren’t gaudy, 20 tackles and one forced fumble, but when you consider that he played behind Brodrick Bunkley and Sedrick Ellis, his resume starts to get a little more interesting. His strengths might be more geared to the run game but in this new scheme he might be asked to do more than take on blocks and plug up running lanes. If you look back on his performance against Tampa Bay last season, when the Saints stopped the Bucs at the goal line, he was a pivotal player for the defense.
With the drafting of John Jenkins, Hicks was moved to end in the 3-4, despite being told that he would compete for the nose tackle position first. That might actually be a blessing in disguise. While he is considered to be a top backup at each position on the defensive line, there is a good chance that he could end up at the top end spot opposite Cam Jordan. If nothing else, with Will Smith more likely to play the pass than the run next season, Hicks will shine in run protection and might be one of the best in the defensive line rotation. The future certainly looks bright for the second year player. The Saints will look to Hicks to improve from his rookie season.