*Editor's Note: Football analyst Bryan Broaddus has been previewing each position with one key battle to watch heading into training camp. Today, he focuses on the defensive tackle spot. *
I believe this is the position that has the best opportunity for a starter from the 2013 season to be pushed out of his job. You have heard me say this plenty of times before, I have always viewed Nick Hayden as a bridge player, the guy that gets you to the next player or players in this case.
At the 1-technique, Hayden was a serviceable player for Rod Marinelli and you can feel the appreciation in his words for Hayden when you ask him about the player. We have all seen what type of player Nick Hayden is and what he brings to the defensive line on a weekly basis but what I have learned about this scheme studying it and talking with these coaches is that one of the most important traits is about getting bodies up the field. It's four man pressure that attacks and breaks down blocks.
The more disruptive the line, the better chance the defense has the opportunity to get off the field. In this sense, Hayden is a round peg in a square hole but that's not his fault because there are times where players are not perfect fits and good coaches make it work. Nick Hayden in small doses is not a bad thing because of how hard he plays at the point of attack but getting off blocks and quickly getting up the field would not be considered one of his strengths. [embedded_ad]
There were snaps in 2013 where Kiffin and Marinelli were forced to use Hayden in nickel rush situations because there was no one there to take that role. Hayden working a line stunt with Jason Hatcher didn't have the same effect as Hatcher say working with Tyrone Crawford, again not Hayden's fault. As we look ahead to camp in Oxnard, there is no doubt in my mind that Hayden will be in a battle to continue starting on this line.
This past offseason has brought options with the additions of Terrell McClain and Ken Bishop but also the return of Tyrone Crawford after missing the entire season. McClain lined up at the three during OTAs and minicamps for Henry Melton, who will be ready for training camp but I think the better fit for him is at that spot which currently belongs to Hayden. His best trait is his quickness on the move but also his strength to shed blockers. Crawford also got work there during the spring when the defense went to their nickel package. In just watching all these players take snaps, McClain is the one that appears to have the most to work with for the position where with Hayden, they are limited in what they can really do.