Back in July I took a look at the defensive line, and came to the conclusion that Nick Hayden was not someone that I had any confidence in. After all, in six seasons in the league, Nick had only found the field a total of 28 times. In my opinion, at that time, any guy who couldn't get on the field with the Carolina Panthers probably couldn't help the Dallas Cowboys at all. In fact, I went so far as to imply that I found the concept of Hayden playing a significant role on the defensive line was "downright scary".
Although I do see some potential impact out of both Lissemore and Bass; the defensive tackle situation, beyond Hatcher and Ratliff, scares me just a little. Quite frankly, I don't see Hayden as a player that will see action in more than a handful of games unless something goes seriously wrong this season.
As I concluded in that post, sometimes the team, and especially their pro scouts, sometimes do actually know what they are doing. Early indications are, that in Nick Hayden's case, this was one of those times.
Bringing the "RKG" Attitude
Nick Hayden, on reporting to the Cowboys facilities, brought with him the type of attitude that Jason Garrett prefers to see from his players. Although the 27 year old had spent the 2012 season out of the game, he had focused on keeping himself in the best condition possible. He was not ready to move on from football; although it appeared the game was ready to move on from him. Speaking with ESPNDallas, Hayden told Todd Archer about the mindset that he brought to Valley Ranch.
"I mean you never know when this game is going to end," Hayden said. "Every guy in the locker room, you just don’t know. That’s why you’ve got to take full advantage of every opportunity and just glad they gave me the opportunity to come here."
To those of us who follow the Dallas Cowboys closely, that statement sounds remarkably like one of the tenets of the Way of the Rooster. As well all know, it is easy to talk the talk; now Hayden just had to prove he could walk the walk.
Once the fun began in Oxnard, Ol' Rabble let us know that Hayden had started to take some snaps away from Sean Lissemore, who was running with the ones in Jay Ratliff's absence. It was a move that had an immediate impact on the preseason, by the time that the Cowboys made their way to Oakland to lock horns with the Raiders, Nick Hayden was ready to prove himself against some guys wearing a different colored jersey. On the first defensive snap of the game, he came up with a fumble recovery. From KD we have this summary of his night:
Nick Hayden doing a good job in the middle of the line, Raiders not getting much up the middle, 3rd and 6 after 2 runs— Blogging The Boys (@BloggingTheBoys) August 10, 2013
As camp wore on Nick continued to show up for the Boys. He was beginning to get some serious mention on the Twitterverse, especially from the guys who cover the Cowboys for a living.
"@DenairNYC: had nick hayden played well enough for us to trust him as a starter for 6 six weeks?? (Rat On PUP)" I believe he has.— Bryan Broaddus (@BryanBroaddus) August 27, 2013
Jason Garrett says he has a lot of confidence in Ratliff's replacements. Nick Hayden will start the season.— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) August 28, 2013
Pleasing the Dallas beat writers is not an easy task; but at the end of the day, outside of the coaching staff, the folks a player really needs to make an impression on are his teammates. After all, over the course of a sixteen game season they will be a band of brothers who have to work together as a well oiled machine.
"He's just been a great teammate, and I'm happy with who we're going to war with against the Giants. " Hatcher on teammate Nick Hayden.— Cowboys Nation (@CowboysNation) August 29, 2013
Reaping What He Sowed
With Jay Ratliff starting the 2013 campaign on the PUP list, Nick Hayden will once again find himself a starter in the National Football League. Through a combination of his willingness to put in the effort required to get the job done, stepping up at the right times, and the misfortune of others; Nick Hayden has secured for himself one more season of football. When the Cowboys host the New York Giants on opening night, he will have one more opportunity to make something of himself in this game. Clarence Hill summed Hayden's camp up:
Hayden came in hoping to make the team, but now he’s a starter, turning last year’s disappointment and Ratliff’s setback into a dream come true.
All signs point to the fact that my initial assessment of Nick Hayden were wrong. Although he will not go on to earn All Pro honors while in Dallas, but he may just may be one of the key pieces along the defensive front this season. Sometimes, especially when you write about the Cowboys, you have to eat a little crow. From experience, I can tell you that eating the one on today's menu wasn't a bad experience.