Hardly two years removed from playing college football on a 12-man defense in western Canada, Akiem Hicks is primed to emerge as a full-time starter on an NFL defensive line.
Just don't tell him that, because he won't even admit to being encouraged by the fact that he played with the starting unit in the New Orleans Saints' preseason opener and is regularly practicing with the first team.
''Not yet, because there's so much more to go,'' said Hicks said, referencing a metaphor defensive line coach Bill Johnson uses about each day of good work amounting to nothing more than a bean in a jar, which has to be full to represent a good season.
''I don't have enough beans to be encouraged yet.''
Maybe not, but his effort in practice on Tuesday certainly seemed worthy of another bean.
He was a force in 11-on-11 drills, registering what would have been a sack on Drew Brees if he were allowed to touch the quarterback. Later, during a 2-minute drill, he had two more standout moments. First...