Akiem Hicks was a force for the Chicago Bears after joining them back in 2016. However, over the last three seasons he’s been hit with the injury bug and missed some time - playing just 29 games over that span. Now, he has a new opportunity with the Buccaneers to regain that high level of play while lining up alongside guys like Vita Vea, William Gholston, and rookie Logan Hall.
For Hicks, it was about the team’s ability to compete and the culture they’ve shown over the past few seasons and a big part of that is, of course, Tom Brady. Hicks and Brady were teammates in 2015 after Hicks was traded from the New Orleans Saints to the New England Patriots. Now seven years later, Hicks and Brady are reunited in Tampa and Hicks was clear about that being a big reason for his decision to join the Bucs;
“One of the biggest things bringing me to Tampa is a chance to win. I would say that I’m happy to be here, happy to be back with Tom [Brady]. I know in that quarterback position you’ve always got a chance to win a game with a guy like that. That was one of my reasons for being here. Also, all the weapons that we have on defense.”
Weapons are certainly something the Bucs have on the defensive side of the ball. Outside of Hicks and Hall joining the defensive line the Bucs also added Keanu Neal and Logan Ryan to join Antonie Winfield Jr. and Mike Edwards at safety, then of course the linebackers with Lavonte David, Devin White, Shaquil Barrett, and second year edge rusher Joe Tryon-Shoyinka.
The big question for the Bucs defensively is the cornerback spot. The corners were decimated with injury last season and Sean Murphy-Bunting seemed to regress a bit based off his play in 2020. Now, certainly a big part of that could stem from his week one injury against the Cowboys that caused him to miss several weeks and it took him some time to get his feet back under him - but you also have Carlton Davis who just signed a big money deal and Jamel Dean, both having dealt with injuries last season as well. The Bucs drafted Zyon McCollum to come in and compete for a role in that secondary and all these guys know they have to be better if they want the chance to compete for a championship.
No one is going to push the defense harder than the other defensive players. They’ve seen themselves play great football and know they can reach that level, so they hold each other accountable so that, once again, they become a great defensive unit. Hicks noticed things like that on day one;
“I’ll give you a tidbit that I got from today during practice on this field over here. I heard guys on the defense chirping [at] other guys on the defense and trying to make them play better, to motivate them. And I think that’s a winning culture. When you look around and somebody’s kind of chastising you or criticizing what you’ve done, and you’re able to receive that and try to be better, I think that’s winning culture and I saw some of that today.”