Each week, SB Nation is asking each of the NFL sites a question about their respective team. This week’s question looks at the defensive line, asking who is the most underrated.
The Miami Dolphins have star players on the defensive line, with defensive end Cameron Wake and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh each having been to the Pro Bowl five times. The team has Andre Branch, a highly touted prospect from the 2012 NFL Draft who was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars, then moved to the Dolphins in 2016 where he has been a solid addition to the line. They have 2017 first-round draft-choice Charles Harris, who is the heir apparent for Wake and will continue to develop throughout the next several years. The same can be said for late-round picks, both defensive tackles, Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor. Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips and defensive end Terrence Fede continue to develop, with both having flashes - especially Phillips.
But, there is one player who does not get much notoriety, with his impact not necessarily coming up in the stats.
In March, the Dolphins made a trade with the Los Angeles Rams to acquire defensive end William Hayes. In his first nine games with the Dolphins, he has 16 tackles and one sack, nothing spectacular, but that would be the point of Hayes’ spot on the roster. For comparison, Wake has 23 tackles with six sacks this year and Branch has 15 tackles with three sacks. In his 10-year career, Hayes has averaged 33 tackles a season, with 3.5 sacks each year. But again, that is not where he makes a difference.
Hayes is a really good run-stopping defensive end. He anchors well on the end of the line of scrimmage, keeping running backs from getting to the outside and breaking big runs. Hayes is not on the field during “passing” situations for the opposing offense, rather he comes in and takes a place along the line, both as a defensive end and inside at defensive tackle, in an effort to stop the run. He often is the replacement for Wake in those situations, and he does not necessarily get the glory of sacking the quarterback like most defensive ends.
The Dolphins rush defense has struggled as of late, at the same time that Hayes has been dealing with a hamstring issue.
Hayes is a big part of the Dolphins defense, but he is not one who gets a lot of star treatment. He is definitely underrated - but his play is important for the Dolphins heading into the rest of the season.