William Hayes’ 2018 season with the upstart 3-0 Miami Dolphins was off to a good start until it ended abruptly Sunday.
Early in the second quarter against the Oakland Raiders, Hayes burst through the middle of the offensive line to smother Derek Carr. It was the second sack of the season for Hayes. It was also his last sack of the season because he suffered a torn ACL on the play.
The circumstances of the injury warrant a closer look, because after the game Dolphins coach Adam Gase said the league’s new roughing the passer rules are to blame.
Hayes didn’t speak to the media after the game, but according to Gase, the Dolphins defensive lineman was injured because he tried not to land on Carr with his full weight, which is now illegal under the language of the rule.
“He was trying to not put body weight on the quarterback,” Gase said, via the Miami Sun-Sentinel. “His foot got caught in the ground.”
Here’s the play in question:
If this was William Hayes’ last play of the season because of the knee injury he suffered then he went out like the true warrior he is. I have so much respect for his game. He’s an old school football player. Not many left like him in the game today. pic.twitter.com/PhqetkD2AQ— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) September 24, 2018
And here’s another angle:
Here's the injury that happened to William Hayes.— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 24, 2018
He's out for the season because he tried to obey a ridiculous rule. pic.twitter.com/jomoaGI8MP
The part of the play under the microscope is Hayes kicking out his right leg on the way to the ground. Whether that was an intentional act or normal part of the play, the Dolphins are saying the move was a result of Hayes making an effort to comply with the rule.
It’s a theory Carr seems to support, because he said he’d rather a player land on him than get injured trying not to.
Raiders QB Derek Carr on Dolphins DE William Hayes, who tore ACL trying not to land hard on Carr when sacking him: “I wish the guy would have just landed on me instead of tearing his ACL. ...For him to tear his ACL, nobody wants that. I don’t want that.”— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) September 26, 2018
The Dolphins say the rule change has forced the team to practice new ways to bring down the quarterback.
Jordan Phillips says William Hayes brought a lot of wisdom to the room. Also says the team practices rolling after hitting QBs to avoid penalties.— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) September 24, 2018
It’s hard to make conclusions based on the video alone. Even if it was an act to avoid a penalty, it’s possible that a knee injury could’ve happened if he tried to drop his full weight on Carr. But Miami is standing by the explanation offered by Hayes.
The NFL’s new roughing the passer penalty has been problematic, illogical, and difficult for players to follow. Whether or not the rule led to Hayes’ injury, it has caused plenty of confusion and chaos, which could have been anticipated.