What the Cowboys should expect from Randall Cobb and Kerry Hyder

03/20/2019
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After they bolstered their 1-technique depth with the signing of Christian Covington last week, the Dallas Cowboys added two more players from the free agent talent pool this week. Former Detroit Lions defensive end Kerry Hyder was signed to a one-year deal on Monday. That same day, ex-Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb visited The Star, and the team announced his one-year contract on Tuesday.

Overall, Hyder and Cobb are solid pieces in this second wave of free agency. They lessen the need for the Cowboys to specifically target a wide receiver or defensive lineman at No. 58 in this year’s draft. Here’s a preview of what each player brings to the team:

Randall Cobb

The five-foot-10, 192-pound receiver is a couple of inches taller and has a little more bulk than the recently-departed Cole Beasley. His physical makeup allows for slightly more versatility outside and in the backfield (even at quarterback), but he should see the majority of his snaps in the slot and on shorter routes.

How he compares to Cole Beasley

Cobb isn’t as quick or explosive as the newly-signed Buffalo Bill, and he doesn’t have Beasley’s blazing foot speed. However, he’s still a smooth runner with good separation quickness and change of direction skills and is lethal when given enough open space.

Here he is in his last game in Green Bay. His defender lines up in press but gives him a free release off the line. Cobb stutters before gliding past the outside shoulder of the cornerback on a slot-fade route. Unfortunately, the throw is a few inches out of reach.

On this play in last year’s season opener, he makes a nice cut outside and shows good burst to cross the face and beat a defender who has outside leverage. He then displays the concentration, tracking ability, and hands to snatch the ball outside of his frame.

How he’s used

The former Kentucky Wildcat is a savvy veteran who’s accustomed to adjusting into hot routes when corners blitz. He also has extensive experience improvising when play structures break down since he’s spent eight years alongside Aaron Rodgers. He has some capability to work deep, but he’s mostly been used on shorter routes such as bubble screens, slants, sticks/curls, and outs, particularly the past two years.

The numbers show that he’s less productive when facing press coverage, but when he does manage to shuck off a jamming defender, he can break into the open field for a good gain.

Yards after the catch

He’s not going to make many people miss in the open field. That’s an area where his predecessor is more dynamic. And Cobb doesn’t show the play strength to break a lot of tackles, either, so he gains whatever space the defense allows.

But this doesn’t mean he isn’t a playmaker. As stated earlier, if the defense gives him enough open space, he can be deadly.

Willing run blocker

Lastly, he’s a willing run blocker. The example below is more of a highlight block as opposed to his usual level of execution, but it illustrates his competitiveness as he takes on a defensive end one-on-one.

Kerry Hyder

Kerry Hyder went undrafted out of Texas Tech in 2014. He eventually found his way onto the Lions’ 53-man roster in 2016 and posted eight sacks as a rotational defensive end who would sometimes rush from the 3-technique spot on obvious passing downs. The former Red Raider missed all of 2017 with a ruptured achilles then returned to limited action last season in a new scheme under rookie head coach Matt Patricia.

The Austin, Texas native is listed at six-foot-two and 270 lbs. He has average to slightly below average length for a defensive end but is capable of playing both outside (5- to 9-technique) and inside (3-technique).

His most noticeable trait may be his motor. He’s not at DeMarcus Lawrence’s level of constant energy, but he battles and showcases a nice closing burst. In the 2016 video below, he prevents Dak Prescott from scrambing for a first down on 3rd-and-7.

Run game

The soon-to-be 28-year old plays with good lateral agility and decent burst off the line, so he can be a valuable piece on slants and stunts. He’s capable of stalemating angle and base blocks when he initiates contact inside the blocker’s chest. On this read-option run, Hyder manages to set the edge against former right tackle Doug Free.

Here’s an example from last season. He keeps his hands inside and anchors well against the left guard before shedding the blocker to tackle the approaching ball carrier.

Pass game

In the passing game, Hyder possesses solid hand usage and is able to compete against average pass blockers. He can take advantage when they miss on their punch or snatch, like on this push-pull move below.

The former Lion is also solid when converting speed to power on his bull rush, capable of creating some push against offensive tackles. He plays with average to above average change of direction skills and does a good job to mirror the quarterback on rollout passes.

Weaknesses

Hyder won’t wow anyone with his length or power. Although able to stalemate one-on-one blockers in the run game when initiating contact, he’ll give ground laterally to double teams, as he has trouble setting his anchor against multiple blockers. And if he doesn’t strike inside first, he can have difficulty leveraging his gap.

In the passing game, he struggles to recover or counter when blockers get ahold of his chest, making him a one-and-done type of rusher in those scenarios.

He needs to learn to build off of his bull rush or to chain multiple rush moves together in order to elevate his game.

Hyder’s overall outlook

Ultimately, the fifth-year veteran is a try-hard player with some promise in his skillset. He’s versatile enough to fill in as an end or defensive tackle and should be a steady rotational contributor. Expecting another eight-sack season from him is probably unfair unless he picks up a number of cleanup or coverage sacks.

The play below might best encapsulate where he’s currently at in his development. He’s initially stymied by the right guard but keeps his chest clear and keeps fighting until late in the down, when he breaks through for a coverage pressure.

Conclusion

Both Randall Cobb and Kerry Hyder, along with Christian Covington, have signed one-year contracts. The three are immediate roster hole-fillers who can still provide value to a team. They shouldn’t be viewed as long-term roster solutions.

Don’t overrate the additions of Cobb and Hyder as if they’ll be on-field upgrades to Beasley and Randy Gregory/David Irving, or even Tyrone Crawford. They’re not as dynamic as those players, and Hyder won’t be as reliable as Crawford. Still, expect Cobb to provide a bigger contribution than Allen Hurns did last season. He’ll likely lead the platoon of players that fill the slot receiver role. And watch for Hyder to give a decent, veteran presence with the occasional flash of playmaking ability. He could notch himself a few sacks, maybe five at most, depending on his playing time and any other roster additions.

These aren’t flashy signings. But they’re solid moves that will stabilize a young roster, which is an important asset for any team, especially in the salary cap era.

 

You can follow Allan on Twitter at @AllanUy22

*Animations derived from NFL Game Pass.

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