It’s become a bit of an annual event where the Cowboys find one or two bargain bin free agents along the defensive line and Rod Marinelli is able to seamlessly incorporate them into the defense, turning them into solid contributors. Last year it was Antwaun Woods, and before him there was David Irving, Nick Hayden, and Terrell McClain, among others. We may have found the next one in newly-signed Kerry Hyder.
Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Hyder played at Texas Tech, having first been recruited by Mike Leach and also playing under head coaches Tommy Tuberville and Kliff Kingsbury. As a Red Raider, Hyder alternated between defensive tackle and defensive end and logged 11 career sacks and 33.5 tackles for loss, as well as forcing eight fumbles and recovering two.
Still, Hyder went undrafted in 2014 and signed with the Jets. He was cut in the final week of the preseason and placed on the practice squad. The Lions picked him up at the end of the 2014 season and after Hyder impressed with three sacks in the preseason, he made the Lions roster.
Hyder only saw one game of action in the 2015 season but he had a breakout year in 2016. From his reserve role, he racked up 3.5 sacks in the first two games of the season and when Ezekiel Ansah went down with an injury, Hyder earned the start in his place. He went on to record eight total sacks throughout the year and 19 hits on the quarterback, contributing even after Ansah returned to the starting lineup. He ended up leading the team in both sacks and tackles for loss, and was also given the annual “Good Guy Award” by the Detroit members of the Pro Football Writers Association.
Entering the 2017 season, Hyder was expected to be a frequent contributor on the defensive line, but he tore his Achilles in the preseason and missed the whole year. In 2018, new head coach Matt Patricia brought with him a hybrid defense that Hyder just didn’t fit in, and as a result he rarely saw action. Still, Hyder managed a sack in his limited snaps.
It was a small sample size, but the 2016 season showed just how effective Hyder can be. According to Pro Football Focus, he had a career high 55 total pressures in the 2016 season, when he earned a solid 68.4 overall rating from PFF. They also note that Hyder only played 153 snaps in 2018, which indicates how much his usage dropped, but he still earned a 57.8 pass rush rating despite the low rate of involvement.
From a physical standpoint, Hyder projects best as a defensive end, though he does have the potential and some experience to play inside on passing downs. Listed at somewhere between 270 and 280 pounds (depending on the source) and standing at 6’2”, Hyder has 33 1/5” long arms, which gives him good length when going up against offensive linemen. Hyder’s most productive year was when Teryl Austin was the defensive coordinator in Detroit; Austin ran a 4-3 scheme that works very similarly to the one Dallas runs, and that’s where Hyder excelled.
Here’s an example of the threat that Hyder can pose coming off the edge. This is taken from a 2016 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. Lined up wide, Hyder gets a one-on-one matchup against the right tackle on an island and uses a great chop move to neutralize the blocker and get in the quarterback’s face.
That kid Kerry Hyder pic.twitter.com/RZ0HN2K3ha— R.I.P. Grandma ❤️ you (@ThatBoyCoke) November 24, 2016
This next clip comes from the 2016 season when the Lions played the Cowboys late in the regular season. This time lined up on the right side, Hyder takes an inside angle and gets bullied a bit by both Tyron Smith and Ronald Leary, but he keeps with the play. After the interior of the line parts like the red sea, Dak Prescott takes off to run, but Hyder does a good job of watching him and tracking Dak down to tackle him from behind. If not for Hyder’s awareness and persistence, Dak probably would have busted off a huge run. For what it’s worth, though, Dallas ended up winning this game 42-21.
Kerry Hyder comes away with a nice stop. If Dak escapes, could've been bad. pic.twitter.com/W1BhSqToAH— R.I.P. Grandma ❤️ you (@ThatBoyCoke) December 29, 2016
In this final clip from an earlier 2016 matchup against the Vikings, Hyder comes off the edge and gets into the chest of the right tackle, driving him inside. Hyder combines his quick burst with strength to work around the tackle and ends up right in the quarterback’s face for the sack.
Only time will tell if Hyder can return to the way he played in 2016, but this will be his first time playing in a straight 4-3 system since then, and he’ll be working with two of the brightest minds in Marinelli and Kris Richard. Hyder could get some work at the right defensive end position opposite DeMarcus Lawrence, generating one-on-one matchups that he’s shown he can win. He can also kick inside when needed, the Lions used him as a situational pass rusher from the interior during the 2018 season.
In short, Hyder offers up a lot of athleticism and quickness that translates well when rushing the passer. This is a very low-risk, high-reward kind of signing that Dallas has seemingly perfected in recent years. Hopefully this Texas native can reinvigorate his career playing for his hometown team.