Nick Hayden – starting defensive tackle
A sixth-round pick by Carolina in 2008 out of Wisconsin, Hayden didn’t get much playing time in three years with the Panthers. He was cut and signed by Cincinnati in 2011, but only played in two games. An ankle injury led to his release and Hayden sat out the 2012 season.
So it was without much fanfare that the Cowboys signed Hayden in February. But the scouting report on Hayden coming out of college had several Marinelli watchwords: Strength. Power. Burst. It was raw, but the tools were there. Again, where you land matters, and Carolina in the late 2000s was hardly a haven for developing defensive linemen.
Hayden hasn’t made very many impact plays so far this season, but as a 1-technique in Monte Kiffin’s Tampa 2 defense, that’s not really his job. He’s responsible for occupying two blockers and stuffing the run; 3-technique tackle Jason Hatcher gets fewer double-teams and is tasked with getting to the quarterback.
Hayden is a big reason why it’s been difficult to run against the Cowboys. By holding firm under a double-team, Hayden frees up other linemen to play one-one-one and linebackers to fly to the gaps. A good 1-technique tackle doesn’t flash on the screen, but he frees up everyone else to make plays.
Hayden is already a “find” for the pro personnel department. He is the reason Sean Lissemore is a Charger today. Remember, the plan was for Hatcher to play the 1-technique and Ratliff to play the 3. Hatcher’s impact play at the 3 and Hayden’s solid play in the 1 may have influenced the Cowboys’ decision to release Ratliff when they did. The Cowboys appear to like their starting tackles – and they have reason to.