Overall, the Lions’ defensive unit this season has generally left us annoyed, angered, and frustrated. Gone are the days when the team was a nightmare to run the ball against, as well as the days that saw the defense carry the bulk of the weight on the team.
Despite the downward trend, there have been a few bright spots, as both Rafael Bush and Darius Slay have sealed victories with interceptions this season. Also, an unexpected bright spot on the defensive line has emerged in Kerry Hyder.
An undrafted free agent who signed with the New York Jets after playing his college ball at Texas Tech University, Hyder saw numerous mentions on preseason All-Big 12 Conference honors during his senior year. He was also listed on watch lists for the Lombardi Award (nation’s top lineman), the Bronco Nagurski Award (best defensive player), and the Outland Trophy (nation’s best interior lineman).
Hyder spent the majority of the 2014 season on the practice squad in New York, before the Lions signed him in January of 2015. He was cut by Detroit in September of 2015, and immediately signed to the practice squad. He appeared in Detroit’s final regular season game in 2015, though he didn’t record any statistics.
Although he was a legitimate long shot to make the roster, Hyder had an impressive preseason in 2016 and ultimately made the Lions main roster to start the current season. His solid preseason included a monstrous three-sack performance in the final tune-up game against the Buffalo Bills.
Hyder also encountered a bit of controversy during his stellar preseason. During Detroit’s match-up with the Cincinnati Bengals, Hyder was assessed with a ‘roughing the passer’ penalty for a hit on quarterback A.J. McCarron. A fine of $18,234 was handed down to Hyder, which was almost three times the amount he was due to make during the preseason. In the end, making the roster got him an NFL salary of $450,000, making the fine a bit easier to deal with.
After making the roster to start the season, he wasted little time making his presence felt. He sacked Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck twice during the first game of the regular season, and currently paces the Lions’ defense with five sacks through eight games. While playing in all eight games to start the season, Hyder has amassed a total of 17 tackles and has been an integral part of a defensive unit that overall has underwhelmed to this point.
Will Hyder continue his upward trend? It’s impossible to say right now, but every career has to start somewhere.