We’ve emphasized it: One key to success during the 2013 Saints season is the youth on the roster. These guys are our new hope. So every week this season we’re going to talk about the young guy we think earned the most raves. Today, despite a bunch of candidates, that guy is Akiem Hicks.
Yesterday, Akiem Hicks did this:
Several young players, some of whom Ryan named on his 2013 Jersey-Buying Guide, stood out against the Falcons. Cam Jordan had a fine game. Kenny Stills made a big play. Kenny Vaccaro saved the day with his deflection of the pass that Roman Harper intercepted.
Hicks applied constant pressure. He has indeed progressed since last year, stepping in more than ably for the injured Kenyon Coleman and, probably, playing better than Coleman could have managed. There was talk in Saints circles of a fine defensive front manned by Hicks, John Jenkins, and Cam Jordan, and the performance of the above means such talk wasn’t misguided.
With players like Hicks in their way, the Falcons produced 367 yards of offense on 55 plays. That’s not necessarily a small number, but two facts offer some context.
First, 367 yards would have ranked as the second-best performance by the 2012 Saints defense. Seriously: Second-best.
Second, the Saints defense allowed 267 yards on 53 plays and 100 yards on two. Obviously giving up big plays isn’t a good thing, but when you’re coming from where we’ve been, 53 plays of near-dominance punctuated by sporadic screwups represents mammoth progress.
Anyway, Akiem Hicks, with his three tackles, his sack, his quarterback hit, his various pressures, represents a next generation of Saints defenders who have, in a blessing-in-disguise sort of way, become the current generation. We’re better for it.