When you “look at the tape” or “break down the film” or “study the player” (which are all of the fun terms that those of us that are scout-wannabes use), you are advised to cut the noise. Turn down the volume, or better yet, watch the “coaches film” so that there is no volume. That is important for your process because when you are listening to a commentator, you have to sift through his bias and figure out why he likes a guy (former player, personal friend) or doesn’t (rival, incident in past) and before long you are influenced by the voices that are speaking at you.
That is why you want nothing talking to you, but the player you are focused on. And you don’t really want him talking either. At least not with words. You want him talking to you with his actions at the spot on the field where you might hire him to fill for your team.
So, today, I wanted to take a few hours and look at Greg Hardy the football player. I know he is a very complex human being. He has plenty of baggage and a rap sheet that has many wanting the Cowboys to ignore this opportunity because of what he has done. I am not attempting to minimize those events nor I am attempting to influence how you feel about them.
But, for this exercise, I want to turn off the noise. I want to ignore everything you have read and heard about Greg Hardy. I want to sit in a room with his plays and see what he is all about as a football player. In the end, the Cowboys will put 22 starters on the field next September. They will all have different stories and different personal lives and some you will want to have over for dinner and others you wouldn’t trust to hold your petty cash. Fine. We know that. We also know the Cowboys have quite a decision on their hands and then Roger Goodell will have another on his.
Here, though, we forget all that and examine the football player who might fill a void of great importance moving forward. I gave him the 200 snap treatment from his work in 2012 and 2013 to see what we have here.
Hardy lines up mostly at RDE where he possesses quickness and power and hands that are insane. He pushes and pulls guys off balance who attempt to get a base and then unleashes an attack of a QB when he gets a seam that closes down in a real hurry. He keeps working and is able to clean up plenty of messes. Hardy is #76 in all of these clips.
Here, he pushes Will Beatty (5 years/$37 million) aside with that Reggie White hump to the outside and then feasts to the inside in fantastic quickness to close down Eli Manning.
He doesn’t always get there this easy, but he clearly had moments against solid left tackles where he makes them fall off balance and then turns his jets on.
Most of his work is at the RDE, but he plays plenty inside. Of the 28 sack plays he has been part of over 2012 and 2013, he had 2 from LDT, 7 from RDT, 19 from RDE, and 1 from LDE. That, one from LDE was actually in the 2013 Pro Bowl against Tyron Smith if you want to know if I missed any of his snaps (I like football a lot).
Look at this below against Donald Penn from Tampa Bay:
Holy Cow. This shows you how terrified a left tackle is at Hardy having too much space to move around. Penn hardly gets a hand on him and looks like a Guard in all that area. Hardy shakes his hips like a running back and Penn is already on his heels. From there, Penn tries to wave at him as Hardy attacks a helpless Mike Glennon and tosses him to the ground. Guys this size are not supposed to be able to do that. That was a DeMarcus Ware move from a guy with about 20 more pounds on him. Hips, fluidity, and athleticism.
Here is Lamar Holmes who is a 3rd round pick for the Falcons, but doesn’t appear to have much at the NFL level. Anyway, he takes his turn against Hardy and is sitting inside, where Hardy shows that a simple hand maneuver and an inside fake is all that it takes. But, what you need to notice here is what we see from Hardy constantly – he turns the corner on left tackles so sharply and dives right in at Matt Ryan. Most defensive ends can’t do this consistently, but Hardy can. It is a sharp angle to the QB when most have to take a circular path that takes longer. The quickest distance between two points remains a straight line and Hardy takes that path and is consistently rewarded because he can do it.
Now, as we looked at all these plays, I want to at least visit the great question about football as it pertains to talent evaluation. How much does he do on his own, and how much does he do because he plays on a defense that is very good? Well, I am happy you asked me that. I think that Hardy really benefits from having a host of players who helped his cause. He was very good, but there is no way he gets 26 sacks in 2 seasons without Charles Johnson and friends on the other side. Carolina has invested heavily in its defensive front and is rewarded for it. But, Hardy still is impressive. The clip above shows a twist where he is too quick at his size for anyone to have a chance to get in his way.
Here he is destroying some left tackle named Kevin Haslam around the corner in San Diego with those same quick hands and closing speed with the sharp angle again.
I just showed you pass rush, but he is very good at killing off run plays as well. The Cowboys would have a very legitimate defensive line with Hardy, Lawrence, Mincey all at the defensive ends and Tyrone Crawford and friends then inside at the DT. Imagine adding a premium DT in the first 3 rounds and now you are formidable. But you needed that #1 pass rusher around which everything else is built. Hardy is clearly that guy from what the film shows.
Whether the Cowboys can deal with the other issues, and whether you as a fan can deal with their decision, and whether the price tag is right are all legitimate conversation pieces that can be had all over the Dallas Morning News and the internet. But if you want to know if he is the piece that most teams would happily trade a #1 RB for a #1 double-digit sack guy, I would suggest that he absolutely is that guy. He is a very impressive DE who will continue to sack QBs at a very high rate when he is allowed to do so again.