Defensive Depth: How Much Can William Hayes Add to the Dolphins’ Defensive Line?
The Dolphins gave substantial money to both Andre Branch (3 year, $24 million) and Cameron Wake (2 year, $16 million extension). With that being said, there is still a considerable hole at the defensive end position.
In order to build a successful football team it is vital to have a quarterback and someone that can get to the quarterback. Cameron Wake is 35 and Andre Branch had a good, not great season in 2016. Both of these players struggle against the run and lack 3-down consistency.
According to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, there is a very good chance that the Dolphins will take a defensive end in the first round of the draft next month. Whether it is Taco Charlton, Charles Harris, or Derek Barnett, the Dolphins plan on adding depth on the defensive line early.
We cannot forget about Miami’s underrated move of the offseason. The Dolphins traded a sixth round pick for William Hayes, a member of the Los Angeles Rams. Not to be confused with Willie Mayes Hayes, the flashy hitter from Major League 2, William Hayes is everything but flashy when it comes to his playing style.
Technique Over Talent:
As mentioned earlier, the Dolphins struggled against the run in 2016. To put that into perspective, Branch ranked 66th against the run while Wake ranked 73rd, according to Pro Football Focus. On the other hand, William Hayes ranked 11th out of 109 qualifiers last season.
What is interesting about watching tape on Hayes is how he finds success. It is easy to lose track of number 95 during a game. While he doesn’t stand out, Hayes continues to get the job done. Not only was Hayes good against the run, but he also had five sacks last season.
These statistics would give us the idea that Hayes offers the Dolphins a talented option at defensive end, but Hayes doesn’t beat opponents with speed or power. He does it with his technique.
Using that logic, it is hard to see Hayes producing that same five-sack total he had last season. While it was his fourth season with at least five sacks, Miami already has two pass rushers that force opposing quarterbacks to get the ball out quickly.
In the first play we see Hayes beat the right tackle on a perfect swim move, but he doesn’t get to Cam Newton before he has enough time to get rid of the ball.
On the next play we say Hayes, along with Aaron Donald, perform a perfect up and under move. With that being said, Matt Ryan still had enough time to find the open receiver down field. Hayes isn’t going to get the opportunities on passing downs that he has seen for the last five years with the Rams. While he may still get a handful of quarterback pressures, he is going to be on the field to shut down opposing running backs. More importantly, he allows Cam Wake and Andre Branch the opportunity to pin their ears back on third and long, instead of the third and manageable we often saw in 2016.
Here, we see Hayes do his job. Not only does he seal the edge, but he also erases any room Devonta Freeman had to operate. It isn’t flashy and he isn’t even blocked, but he does his job. Last season we saw too many running backs bounce outside against the Dolphins.
Later in the same game against the Falcons, Hayes applies pressure on Matt Ryan and blows up the screen play. He doesn’t do this by bursting past the tackle or by pushing him away. Instead, he creates just enough room to bounce inside and force Ryan to throw the ball away.
At 31 years old, Hayes is a smooth player. He doesn’t focus on making the highlight plays; rather he keeps the play in front of him. He doesn’t get fooled by the play action and, more importantly, he keeps the play in front of him. Last season we saw the likes of Colin Kaepernick and Tyrod Taylor take advantage of Miami’s aggressive defensive ends.
The Dolphins lacked lane discipline, giving opposing teams the opportunity to extant plays or turn into open-field runners. Hayes does a great job of shuffling his legs and not turning inside. He was the difference between a five-yard run and an incomplete pass.
It is pretty obvious how Hayes operates, especially after we look at how he plays. When I say his tape doesn’t feature talent, it doesn’t mean he is a bad player. Being the strongest or the fastest isn’t the only way to be a good football player. In fact, Miami’s defense survived on luck and speed, not on consistency.
Hayes is a great addition for the Dolphins because we know what we will get from him each week. Andre Branch had six games last season where he didn’t have a solo tackle. Hayes didn’t have any games where he didn’t make at least one tackle on his own. He is a perfect fit on a defense that is beaten by it’s own aggressiveness.
Last season, the Dolphins led the league in tackles with 1,143. For a team to pile up that many tackles, it is a result of not getting off the field on third down. The Dolphins didn’t give up many big plays, but they consistently were nickel-and-dimed all the way down the field. Adding a guy like Hayes may not seem like much, but when a team struggles on third down, two or three yards makes a huge difference when trying to get off the field.
The Dolphins ranked 26th in the league, giving up almost 130 yards after the catch last season. Not only is Hayes good against the run, but also he rarely lets ball carries get by him, even if he has to run through his own teammate to do it.
Hayes is going to be a quality addiction for the Dolphins because of his ability to consistently stop the run and sniff out screen passes; anything more than that will be a nice addition. With Hayes on a one-year deal and Cam Wake not getting any younger, the Dolphins will be looking for edge rushers in the 2017 and probably the 2018 draft.