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Sunday NFL Thoughts: Why Akiem Hicks signed with the Bears and why the Dolphins are just the absolute worst

Also, how Chris Hogan lost his two front teeth, his two front teeth, his two front teeth!

Divisional Round - Kansas City Chiefs v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

1. The New England Patriots rarely move on from a player that they probably should’ve kept. Some former Patriots are stars and they get more money than the team can afford- like EDGE Chandler Jones, LB Jamie Collins, and CB Logan Ryan in recent years; those are acceptable ways to move on from players because that’s not a fault in evaluation, but a reality of the free agency process.

Others are aged veterans that have a few years left in the tank, but the capital received is worth the exchange, like with DL Richard Seymour and LG Logan Mankins.

But every once in a while a good player slips through the cracks, signs a cheap deal with another team, and then becomes a big contributor, such as CB Darius Butler with the Colts and EDGE Kony Ealy with the Jets.

None have the same trajectory as DL Akiem Hicks, a rising star with the New Orleans Saints that the Patriots acquired for a 4th-string tight end, and then let walk later that year. Hicks signed a cheap 2-year, $10 million deal with the Chicago Bears before re-upping with a 4-year, $48 million extension.

Now the Patriots didn’t want to let Hicks go- Belichick called Hicks at the last minute to give a counter offer- but they didn’t do enough to keep him around and now Hicks is one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL. He recently spoke with the Chicago Sun-Times to explain why he chose the Bears in free agency, leaning on his relationship with Bears general manager Ryan Pace.

“They were around me when I was growing as a young man,” Hicks said. “I think everybody grows. I think in his role, [Pace] has grown a lot as a person, and I feel the same way about myself.”

Pace was running the Saints when they drafted Hicks and both wanted to get back together in Chicago. The Bears were also able to give Hicks more playing time than the Patriots would have, with Hicks playing an impressive 85.5% of the Bears defensive snaps over the past two season. That’s more than what the Patriots allow their edge defenders to play, never mind their defensive tackles.

Hicks made the best decision for his career and it’s paying off. I wonder if the Patriots would have been more aggressive in signing Hicks if given a second chance.

2. The article also touches on how the Patriots acquired Hicks in the first place. Apparently the Saints were trying to run the Seattle Seahawks-style of defense after acquiring FS Jairus Byrd and that meant a change in role for Hicks.

Instead of playing the interior pass rusher or 3-4 defensive end that he was flourishing as in his early career, the Saints moved him to the edge in a Red Bryant type 4-3 end role.

It’s no surprise that Hicks started to dominate when moved back inside with the Patriots and back in the 3-4 with the Bears. Sometimes coaches just overthink things. A lot. Too often do coaches not play to the talent of their players, but instead stick to a playbook that might result in a bunch of square pegs trying to fill the wrong gaps.

3. The Miami Dolphins just lost on Thursday Night Football to the tune of 40-0. What a treat in prime time, right? Well, you’ll get another healthy dose next week...and the week after that.

The Dolphins have three straight prime time games just as they’ve lost their starting quarterback and just as the wheels started to fall off. Sure, the Dolphins are 4-3, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them come out of this three-game stretch 4-5.

Oh, and then after a three game stretch with the Buccaneers, Patriots (!!), and Broncos, the Dolphins get another prime time game on Monday Night Football against the, surprise, New England Patriots.

Four prime time games in a span of seven games seems excessive, especially for a team like the Dolphins. They made the postseason last year which is why the NFL schedulers bet on them, but most would have pointed to an obvious regression since the Dolphins finished the 2016 regular season with a negative point differential.

The last time the Patriots played four prime time games in seven weeks? 2015. Not too long ago and they actually played five prime time games in nine weeks that season. The Patriots also played four prime time games in a span of six weeks in 2010 and 2008.

Oh, and guess what: the Dolphins now have the worst point differential of any 4-3 team in NFL HISTORY. They were a bad team last year and they’re a bad team this year and they’ve just been fortunate enough to have some lucky bounces go their way both seasons.

4. And if you needed any more reason to dislike this Dolphins team...

Vader Choke...

...Eye Poke...

...Holy Smoke!

...not good. Not that the Dolphins need to be any weaker for these upcoming prime time games, but c’mon now. Some sort of suspension has to happen because this was ridiculous.

Broncos CB Aqib Talib was suspended for a game with an eye poke. Sure, Joe Flacco slid late, but Kiko Alonso definitely lowered his shoulder into Flacco’s head and didn’t do anything to avoid the contact; Bears LB Danny Trevathan was suspended for a hit to the head on Packers WR Davante Adams. And while I can’t find prior precedence on choking a player on the field, I’m pretty sure that isn’t considered a football move.

On a positive note, here’s Tony Romo talking about the cat on the field.

5. Last week on the broadcast between the Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons, we heard that wide receiver Chris Hogan collided with a player at practice and lost his two front teeth. We now have more details, via ESPN’s Mike Reiss.

“Hogan was involved in a big collision in practice with rookie tight end Jacob Hollister and lost his two front teeth,” Reiss reports. “That required an emergency meeting with the dentist.”

Ouch. How’d that happen?

“It was on offense, just kind of a weird play -- a post -- I saw the ball, cut it, and bang!,” Hogan said, via Reiss. “He was on the other side and we were coming [together] and it was just a bang-bang play.”

Double ouch. Thank goodness nothing more serious occurred, but that must’ve been a shock to everyone at practice.

6. Hugely important story on the owners meeting with the players to discuss ways forward with the “‘inequality in America’ protest.”