Tucked deep inside of a man with a personality and a theories more bizarre than the trade that brought him to Miami, is one hell of a football player.
A denier of dinosaur existence and a merchant of mermaids, William Hayes trades in the left coast for the best coast (as far as football is concerned) bringing with him a number of traits the Dolphins desperately need along the defensive line.
At this point in his career, Hayes is a 50% participant. As a replacement to Jason Jones, the Dolphins got much better as a football team in accordance with those separate transactions.
Much like Miami did with Cameron Wake and Andre Branch in 2016, Hayes rotated on a series by series basis with fellow Rams teammate, Ethan Westbrooks. Hayes, however, was always in the game in critical situations.
In Los Angeles, Hayes lined up at a variety of positions across the line. The Rams base defense feature four down lineman and would vary the technique in-which Hayes played. In some cases, he spilt out off of the outside shoulder of the tight end as a 9-technique (Cam Wake’s most common alignment.) In other packages, he was directly over the right tackle as a 5-technique.
Then, when the Rams would bring in a nickel or dime packages in obvious passing downs, he kicked inside playing a 3-technique (lined up over the outside shoulder of the guard.)
And therein lies the reason the Dolphins brought the nine-year veteran to Miami. His versatility fits the scheme to a T with the position-diverse Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake. The Dolphins nickel rush package improved greatly, but not as much as the run defense will when Hayes is on the field.
He has a strong punch and heavy hands. He keeps himself clean by winning with his hands and freeing himself up to make a play on the ball carrier. He has the ankle flexibility to stack and shed when he does get absorbed by a blocker play side.
He’s a savvy player that uses preparation and intellect to put himself in the right position to create problems for the defense.
The pass rush prowess has slowed in recent years, but he may be the second best pass rushing option the Dolphins have currently. He averaged 5.2 sacks per season over the last five years and doing so consistently never registering a total lower than four over that period. As his ability to bend the arc and win with speed decreases, he takes a more measure approach trying to use his fresh legs to bull rush tired right tackles.
He was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in 2008 at the height of their wide-9 era when Javon Kearse was still ruining offensive game plans. The transition to this defense should be a smooth one. Ironically the man he figures to replace, Jason Jones, was also selected by the Titans in ‘08.
Hayes questioned why he was traded for what added up to the equivalent of a coffee maker and a stapler – and, on its surface, is a valid concern. The Rams are transitioning into a 34 defense under Wade Phillips that doesn’t suit the skillset of Hayes.
Everyone wins in this trade. The Rams move up 20 some spots at the back end of the draft (hey, anything positive is a victory for the Rams these days) for a player that was miscast in their defense. The Dolphins get a productive veteran presence and the player gets a chance to play for a winner.
Role in Miami: From the two defensive end positions, there are roughly 2,200 snaps to be had by any given team. If Wake and Branch are going to take 700 of those each, there are still 800 reps to be had. Hayes will eat into a huge chunk of those (500 give or take) and slip inside on third downs and rush from a spot alongside Ndamukong Suh.
This was a home run trade in terms of value for what the Dolphins gave up. The run defense improved tremendously the second the trade was agreed to and Miami adds a pass rush threat to a group that desperately needs more.
The move also allows the Dolphins to ease a rookie into the thick of things slowly. Miami simply has to draft a young pass rusher – and it likely will in the first three rounds. Learning the study habits of veterans like Wake, Branch and Hayes is a good place to get the feet wet for a new player.
We just have to hope that the dinosaur and mermaid nonsense doesn’t rub off on the rook.
Still to come: Anthony Fasano, Julius Thomas and Ted Larsen.