After posting a team-high 8.0 sacks in 2016, is third-year Detroit Lions’ defensive end Kerry Hyder Jr. a young star or simply another one-year wonder?
If a casual Detroit Lions‘ fan was asked who led the team in sacks last season, undoubtedly the name you’d hear more often than not is that of defensive end Ziggy Ansah. Following the exodus of players like defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and defensive end Cliff Avril the past few years, Ansah is now considered the dominant pass rusher in Detroit.
But Ensah, in fact, did not lead the Lions’ in sacks last season. That honor belongs to defensive end Kerry Hyder Jr. The former practice squad member racked up an incredible 8.0 sacks last season, despite only starting in two of his 16 games played in 2016. Ansah was only able to record 2.0 sacks all of last season mainly due to a nagging ankle injury.
An undrafted rookie free agent out of Texas Tech in 2014, Hyder joined the Lions in January of 2016 following a brief stint on the New York Jets’ practice squad. Last offseason, the 26-year old lost 35 pounds to make the switch from defensive tackle to end. Hyder, who was not a lock to make the 53-man roster last year, had made plans to possibly become a gym teacher if things didn’t work out in Detroit.
Instead, Hyder’s move to defensive end was likely a career-saving one. In the Lions’ final preseason game against the Buffalo Bills last September, Hyder exploded for 3.0 sacks. That production earned him 22 defensive snaps in Week One against the Indianapolis Colts. In only Hyder’s second real shot at regular season action, he recorded three total tackles and 2.0 sacks.
Hyder would go on to record a sack in each of his first four regular season games. He would have another 2.0 sack performance in Week Nine against the Minnesota Vikings. But Hyder only posted a single sack in the Lions’ final eight contests of the season, including a playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Although Hyder’s production to start the year seem to indicate he was a rising star, his lack of production in the second half of the season could mean he was just a one-year wonder. An exclusive rights free agent this offseason, Detroit tendered the young pass rusher for this season. Hyder will be a restricted free agent in 2018.
What this ultimately means is Hyder has this season to prove if he is truly a rising star in the Detroit’s defense worthy of a bigger contract or is he just a fluke that NFL teams figured out half way through last season.
From being undrafted, to the practice squad, to becoming the Detroit Lions’ reigning sack leader: defensive end Kerry Hyder is once again an underdog. But based on his history, I would certainly not count him out.