Dallas Cowboys: Five key contract decisions for 2016

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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

Poor Nick Hayden is the Cowboys player fans love to hate.

Statistically speaking you can see where they’re coming from.

Looking at the Pro Football Focus overall rankings of defensive tackles Hayden ranked bottom in 2014, second bottom 2013 and in the bottom 10 of 2010.

It’s not pretty.

But then the job he’s expected to do isn’t pretty.

Cowboys defensive coach and former player Leon Lett gushed about Hayden in an interview recently, and highlights just how important work ethic is to the Rod Marinelli defense.

"“He’s one of the leaders on our defensive line. He’s the heart and soul of our defensive unit. He hustles on every play. He’s tough, intelligent and we’re so blessed to have him. He’s under appreciated, but it doesn’t matter. He comes to work every day with that same mentality and it’s contagious again to our room. Guys look to him because he does it right.”- Leon Lett"

Hayden appears to be the Doug Free of the defense. The father figure.

Not the most talented nor the most athletic but the man with genuine football smarts who gives 110% on every single down.

His influence off the field is perhaps more important than his ability on the field, but it’s really hard to see Marinelli parting with a player he’s stuck by for anytime soon.

So suck it up Hayden haters, it looks like he’ll be here a while yet!

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