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Detroit Lions 2016 roster review: Kerry Hyder was the most valuable piece of a flawed defensive front

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Kerry Hyder was the most productive member of the Lions’ defensive line in 2016, but can he replicate it for Detroit next season?

Detroit Lions v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

Now that we’re in full offseason mode, we’re going to review every single Detroit Lions player that finished the 2016 season under contract. We’ll look at their expectations coming into the season, whether they met those expectations and what to expect of them going forward. We will begin with the upcoming free agents, as they are the most intriguing and time sensitive.

Kerry Hyder

Expectations before 2016

After Hyder’s highly-publicized blunder during the Lions preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals, many expected the third-year player from Texas Tech to not be a part of the team’s 53-man roster. With the perceived depth along the defensive line, including the influx of rookies and free agents, it seemed as though Hyder could potentially be the odd man out. However, in the Lions final preseason game, Hyder played like a man on a mission, tallying three sacks and being a huge disruption all game long. After that performance, Hyder earned himself a spot on the Lions roster, and seemed poised to fit in the rotation of defensive linemen, specifically on the edge behind starters Ezekiel Ansah and Devin Taylor.

Actual role in 2016

2016 stats: 16 games (2 starts) | 23 tackles, 8.0 sacks, 1 fumble recovered, 1 pass defended

Hyder wasted no time proving the coaching staff right for making him a part of the Lions’ plans in 2016. In Week 1, in only 22 defensive snaps, he brought down Andrew Luck twice for the first two sacks of his NFL career. When Ansah suffered a high ankle sprain after just two snaps into Week 2’s matchup with the Titans, it was Hyder who was thrust into a much more prominent role, seeing his snap count more than double and making the most of his new opportunities: From Weeks 2-5, Hyder notched three more sacks, bringing his total to five through the first five games.

There weren’t many positive things to write home about when it came to the Lions’ defensive line week in and week out. As a unit, they provided very little in the way of pressure or push up front, ceded 4.4 yards per rushing attempt and finished with just 23 sacks.

Though Hyder’s statistical production took a bit of a dip after his hot start—he added only three more sacks over the remaining 11 games of the season—the tape will show you something different. His motor kept running and his pursuit didn’t stop until the ball carrier was down—the best example of this was a play in Week 6 against the Rams where Kerry made it from the weak side to chase down a run by Todd Gurley.

His 78.2 grade from PFF ranked him 42nd out of 109 qualifying edge defenders, and made him the highest graded defensive lineman in Detroit.

Outlook for 2017

Contract status: Exclusive rights free agent

Hyder’s status as an exclusive restricted free agent is almost a sure sign that he will return to the team in 2017. Exclusive rights free agents can be offered a qualifying contract, which gives the team—in this case the Lions—sole rights to the player. If the player signs the contract, he is no longer a free agent, but if he declines the team’s offer, he must sit out the entire season. Hyder won’t be looking to take a year off from football after the sort of season he had last year, so he’s essentially a lock to be back.

A bigger question to be answered is not only how the team values Hyder, but where they foresee him fitting into their plans next year. A lot of his worth is found in his versatility, and more specifically his ability to not only provide pressure off the edge, but line up inside as a three technique and generate some push.

His eight sacks accounted for over a third of the defensive line’s sack output, which has a lot to do with Ansah’s injury and subsequent dip in totals, but his inconsistency in terms of statistical production on a game-to-game basis, albeit a small concern, is still something you’d like to see him improve on in 2017.

Although Hyder was able to fill in for Ansah in a pinch—which he did in a way that exceeded everyone’s expectations—it seems as though he’s best served as a versatile defender to be rotated in, see anywhere between 25-30 snaps per game, and be used to keep the energy running high among the defensive front.

If Detroit can further bolster its defensive front, the prospect of Kerry Hyder returning to the in 2017 means only good things for Detroit.

Previously profiled Lions: Riley Reiff, Anquan Boldin, Dan Orlovsky, Devin Taylor, Rafael Bush, Don Muhlbach, Larry Warford, Andre Roberts, TJ Jones