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The Chargers finished 30th in run defense, and the issues fell on the defensive line personnel and its inability to hold its own in that department on a consistent basis.
For that reason, the team will make the point to upgrade the unit this offseason. Slated to have $70 million after cuts are made, Los Angeles should be aggressive in free agency, and one of its targets should be Akiem Hicks.
Hicks, 31, has a previous connection with head coach Brandon Staley. The two spent time together with the Bears when Staley was the outside linebackers coach from 2017-18.
At 6-foot-5 and 324 pounds, Hicks is a solid all-around interior defender who plays with tremendous leverage, power, and lateral movements to get into the backfield and the strength to stand his own against double teams.
Hicks clears the guard with a two-hand swipe to rip move and shows excellent movement skills to turn the corner and flatten to the quarterback for the sack.
Hick starts with the long-arms and converts that to power to bull rush the guard all the way into Kirk Cousins.
Hicks gets extended, shows good lateral movement, controls his man while displaying eye discipline to find flow in the backfield. Once Dalvin Cook gets vertical, Hicks violently sheds the guard and makes the tackle for no gain.
While stopping the run is the primary focus, affecting the quarterback from the interior is just as crucial, and Hicks has over 50 pressures in three seasons, with his most recent coming in 2020.
Hicks has dealt with some injuries throughout his lengthy career, but it hasn’t hindered him enough to keep him from producing when he is on the field. He played over 800 snaps in each season in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2020.
Hicks, the 10-year veteran, has 387 total tackles, 73 tackles for loss, 40.5 sacks, and six forced fumbles throughout his career.
Having a player who can rush the passer just as well as he defends the run and a veteran presence in the defensive line room, like Hicks, will go a long way to improving the group next season.