*Editor's Note: Throughout the off-season, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will take a closer look at the roster, analyzing players' impact last season and how each fits into the team's 2015 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features defensive tackle Nick Hayden.*
Name: Nick Hayden
Height/Weight:6-3 / 200
Experience: 7 seasons
Key stat:Hayden led all Cowboys' defensive tackles in 2014 with 52 tackles and tied for second on the entire defense with four tackles for loss.
Contract Status:Signed through 2015 after signing one-year deal on March 19.
2014 Impact: Where fans generally make mistakes in the evaluations of the players on their team's it is when they let numbers dictate whether that player is productive or not. Coaches and scouts are like fans in that they appreciate the production in numbers but they take a much broader focus in how well the player helps the overall production of the offense or defense. Nick Hayden will never "Wow" you with his production numbers wise but ask Rod Marinelli, Leon Lett and Ben Bloom to identify the top performers on their defense, Hayden's name will be mentioned more often than not. He is a leader among these defensive linemen. You can tell in just watching him in the locker room and on the field he is an outstanding in his interaction with his teammates. There is respect there. As far as his playing
ability - he is a one or two down player but he is used on third downs because he works well with the other defensive linemen. He is not going to win many battles one-on-one but he will give you that occasional push in the middle but that's not his real strength. He has that veteran ability to find his way to the ball. He always knows where he needs to fit scheme wise and will perform his technique to the best of his ability. Is a much better player against the run when he can play on the move. Good with the upper body strength and using his hands to get down the line. Effort and desire to get to the outside is impressive for a player his size. He is very consistent in this approach. More effort that burst or athletic ability. Is a very good tackler in space. Doesn't get enough credit for this skill. Not always easy for a defensive linemen to have.
Where He Fits: Signed a one year deal to come back and compete for the starting spot at the one or nose tackle position. Would ideally like to upgrade the spot with a younger more athletic player but it has been proven that you can play competitive defense with him in the lineup. Is not as bad as most people believe he is. Will always be a leader in the locker room and with the other defensive linemen. Most likely a bridge to the next guy in the upcoming draft where there are several nice options. Is always going to give you the best he has. Limited athletic ability but outstanding intelligence and toughness. You always have a role for those types of players.
Nick Eatman:To me, Hayden is the truest definition of a Rod Marinelli guy. I'm sure Marinelli wouldn't oppose to getting a first-round draft pick at defensive tackle now and then, but he knows how to get the best out of players with perhaps less skills, but the smarts, awareness and drive to be the best. Hayden is that type of guy. Two years ago, he came out of nowhere to not only land a roster spot, but a starting job. While every year it seems like the team is trying to find someone to replace him, Hayden keeps himself on the field and in the game, which is why the Cowboys chose to re-sign him this offseason to a modest one-year deal. Hayden is a good, solid player who fits into Marinelli's rotation of guys and I would expect will be on this team once again next fall.