Can Breakout Cowboys Players Of 2013 Impress Again?

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Sep 8, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett smiles and celebrates with safety Barry Church (42) and defensive tackle Nick Hayden (96) after they returned a fumble for a touchdown in the third quarter against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 8, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett smiles and celebrates with safety Barry Church (42) and defensive tackle Nick Hayden (96) after they returned a fumble for a touchdown in the third quarter against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries swept a rather lean looking Dallas Cowboys defense in 2013. The scouting and coaching staff were stretched to the extreme. Forced to find NFL caliber players from a shallow pool. In total we saw forty one different players line up on defense.  It was a case of sink or swim. Statistically, the Cowboys sank. There were some players who refused to drown. These weren’t the big name superstars of the team. These were the relative unknowns. Did these breakout players perform admirably enough to warrant consideration in the new season? A few did.

Nick Hayden, defensive tackle

2013 saw Nick Hayden make sixteen starts. More than the thirteen he had in all his previous seasons combined. Hayden had significant game experience with Carolina Panthers in 2010 albeit for a 2-14 team. When he joined the Cowboys in 2013, it was with the expectation he’d provide depth on the defensive line. It wasn’t long before the backup players became starters. Before the season even began, Hayden went from rotational play to defensive stalwart.

Heading into the new year, Hayden’s likely competing against Terrell McClain and Ken Bishop for a rotational/back up spot with Henry Melton expected to start. Hayden acknowledges just how vital his 2013 game time experience could be:

“Each year it’s just going to get easier and easier for me, because the more I play the more comfortable you get in there, and you pick up on little things”

It remains to be seen whether Melton can be the player he was for the Chicago Bears back in 2012. Hayden is by no means a long term answer as a starter. As part of a defensive rotation however, he could be a reliable source. Able to start should the dreaded injury plague return.

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