Dolphins defensive line will change its approach under Kris Kocurek

The defensive line will take a different approach under Kris Kocurek. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE — Star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh played an insane 84 percent of the Dolphins’ defensive snaps last season, and they don’t want to see anyone doing that this year.

The new template for the renovated defensive line is to send players in “waves,” as position coach Kris Kocurek put it today. Miami believes it has enough talent to do that, and the collection of defensive ends and tackles will theoretically be better in smaller doses.

“Right now we don’t really have any depth chart set, but all I know is we’re looking for 8-10 guys,” said Kocurek, who was hired in January to replace Terrell Williams. “We’re gonna roll guys through games. We want to keep our guys fresh throughout four quarters and keep our guys fresh through 16 games… and try to keep snap counts down as much as we can and go as fast as we can and as hard as we can.”

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That’s a different approach than last year, but change should be a good thing in this case. The Dolphins didn’t get nearly the return they expected from the fourth-most expensive defensive line in the NFL.

Last season, at a cost of $36.1 million on the line, the team finished 26th in sacks at 30, with 25.5 of those coming from linemen. That works out to one every 19 pass plays, which is part of the reason the Dolphins were among the worst in the NFL in opponent passer rating and completion percentage.

They reallocated their spending to emphasize pass rushers and accepted a massive dead money hit to their salary cap in order to let Suh go and get out of some of what they owed him. The key pieces on this d-line are defensive ends Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn, each of whom has a 15-sack season on their résumé.

Wake is 36 and continues to make that number mostly irrelevant. He has 22 sacks over the last two seasons since coming back from a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Quinn is still considered to be in his prime at 28, but it’s been four years since he was considered elite at his position. He was an all-pro selection in 2013 with 19 sacks and followed up with 10.5 the next year, but managed a total of just 17.5 over the next three seasons in part due to injury. He had 8.5 last year to go with 32 tackles and two forced fumbles.

“It’s just scheme,” Kocurek said. “He was asked to do something differently than he had done in the past going from strictly a 4-3 type guy to being more of a stand-up outside linebacker type. It’s not an easy transition sometimes. It’s not like he played bad.”
Behind those two are a pair of enigmas: Andre Branch and Charles Harris.

Harris was the team’s first-round pick last year and played well as a backup, but had only two sacks. He graded out well overall and was among the team’s most disruptive players in some nuanced statistics like passes batted down, quarterback hurries and penalties drawn.

“Very serious about his craft,” Kocurek said of Harris. “Works extremely, extremely hard. It’s hard to outwork Charles. Wants to get better (and) strives to get better every single day.
“As a rookie, it’s always hard. As a defensive end coming in as a rookie, I thought he played well. Now we need to take that next step.”
Branch impressed the Dolphins in 2016 and earned a three-year, $24 million extension in the ensuing offseason, but was limited by injuries last season and didn’t produce like he wanted. If he’s healthy this year, he’ll be a valuable part of the line.

The Dolphins also have veteran William Hayes, who is particularly excellent as a run stopper, on their bench.

The interior is less of a priority, as indicated by the Dolphins’ spending. With an emphasis on creating a crew of top-level edge rushers, the team is willing to go young and cheap at defensive tackle.

One reason they think that’ll work is second-year player Davon Godchaux, who performed well enough last year to be a part-time starter and is expected to take over that spot permanently this year. Miami also has veterans Jordan Phillips and Akeem Spence, as well as second-year man Vincent Taylor.

If Kocurek can find at least eight really good weapons from among that group, he feels good about the defensive line making a resurgence in 2018.

“So far, I like the talent, but the talent’s gotta work,” he said. “That’s the thing these guys have been doing. Since Day One, they’ve bought into the work ethic that we’re looking for. They show up every day prepared and just make sure we get better one day at a time and maximize the abilities the best we can.”

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Does Dolphins’ trade for Rams DE Robert Quinn mean somebody’s gone?

There’s no certainty Cameron Wake is back in 2018. (Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS—The Dolphins are in the market for several positions this offseason, but defensive end wasn’t thought to be one of them.

That’s what made today’s trade for longtime Rams defensive end Robert Quinn in a deal that involves an exchange of draft picks a major surprise. The Dolphins aren’t giving up much, sending this year’s fourth-round pick to the Rams and swapping spots in the sixth-round.

Quinn, 27, will join a defensive line that’s already one of the highest-priced in the NFL, and Miami didn’t get its money’s worth out of that unit last season.

While there’s a strong possibility the trade will be contingent on Quinn renegotiating his contract, he’s currently due $12.4 million this year and $12.9 million in 2019.

Add that to the $8.6 million Miami owes Cameron Wake this season and the two years and $19 million remaining on Andre Branch’s deal, and it suggests the Dolphins are planning to move on from somebody. Obviously Charles Harris, last year’s No. 22 overall pick, isn’t going anywhere.

Quinn, a two-time Pro Bowler and a 2013 all-pro, had 8.5 sacks in 15 games for Los Angeles last year. That’s not amazing, but it’s more than any Dolphin other than Wake has had in a season over the last four years.

If Miami can afford to keep Quinn and it’s other three top defensive ends, that’s a solid group. It’s also an expensive one. Prior to the Quinn acquisition, the Dolphins had $51.6 million in defensive line commitments for the upcoming season. More than half of that is for Ndamukong Suh, who is a candidate for restructuring this offseason.

If someone needs to go for the Dolphins to bring Quinn on board, there’s no guarantee Wake will be back. He’s coming off two straight double-digit sack seasons following his ruptured Achilles tendon in 2015, but he just turned 36.

He played 58.3 percent of the snaps last year, most among Miami’s defensive ends, and had 10.5 sacks. Over the final 10 games of the season, he had 4.5. His 92 sacks are second in franchise history only to Jason Taylor’s 131.

According to Spotrac, the team can get out of Wake’s deal for $3.5 million this offseason.

That’s less than it would cost the Dolphins to move on from Branch, who would cost them nearly $12 million in dead salary cap money if they cut him. If Miami can afford this crew for a year, Branch is much more vulnerable next spring when the team can let him go for a $2 million hit rather than pay him $9 million.

This almost certainly signals the end for 32-year-old William Hayes, who was an effective defensive end off the bench last season before going on Injured Reserve in November.

The idea of Quinn turning around a pass rush that was 26th in the league in sacks last year has some merit, but it’s no sure thing. He battled injuries in 2015 and ’16, when he totaled nine sacks in 17 games.

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DT Davon Godchaux sold Dolphins on himself in NFL Combine interview

Davon Godchaux was a great selection with the 178th pick. (AP)

DAVIE—There were good reasons why many NFL scouting departments were hesitant about LSU defensive tackle Davon Godchaux. The Dolphins shared some of those reservations as they evaluated the possibility of drafting him.

There was an arrest for a complicated domestic incident last year that resulted in him being briefly kicked off his college team (charges were dropped, and he was reinstated), he made what many thought was an odd decision to leave school after his junior season and, quite frankly, he’s got a goofy personality.

But any skepticism the Dolphins had about whether he was serious about football vanished quickly when they sat down with him at the NFL Combine. General manager Chris Grier, coach Adam Gase and defensive line coach Terrell Williams were instantly convinced that Godchaux was the type of player they coveted.

It’s the only Combine interview Gase can recall in detail.

“I remember being shocked,” Gase said. “We were showing him tape and we weren’t even hitting play yet and he says, ‘Here’s what happened.’ He’d go through everything. ‘I screwed up here. I should’ve been (doing this)’

“I just remember Terrell saying, ‘How do you know what play this is?’ He was like. ‘This is all I do.’ I just remember being floored by that because he was so football—That’s all it was. That’s all he was about.”

That proved to be an accurate glimpse, and the Dolphins set their minds on pulling off a draft steal. As they saw him slide into the fifth round, they began to feel like they were the one of the few who knew what he was. They felt confident enough about being able to get him that they bypassed him with their first fifth-round pick, No. 164 overall, and jumped on him with the 178th selection.

Going into Sunday’s game against Denver, it’s clear he was the best value of anyone they chose. He might even be their best rookie, period, regardless of draft slot.

“I think it’s just the consistency that he’s had and the fact that he always does everything you ask and he does it right,” Gase said. “There’s not many guys that can challenge him with the energy he plays with. Every down he’s on the field, he gives you everything he has.”

Godchaux immediately jumped ahead of third-year defensive tackle Jordan Phillips on the depth chart, and they battled throughout training camp. Both have played well alongside Ndamukong Suh when healthy this season.

Godchaux has played all 11 games, including five starts, and been on the field for 52.5 percent of Miami’s defensive snaps. He played slightly more than Phillips the last two weeks.

He is tied with Suh for most tackles on the defensive line with 31 and he’s got a forced fumble and a pass breakup to go with it. Pro Football Focus ranks him the No. 73 defensive tackle in the league this season.

“Godchaux is probably one of the best on the team at holding double teams,” defensive coordinator Matt Burke said. “He’s just a squared off safe. He’s like an old-school safe. He just holds in there and hangs and doesn’t get moved.

Beyond the way he’s played, the staff has been impressed by how he prepares. He’s taken after Suh’s no-nonsense approach and seems to have learned how to carry himself as a pro. It helps that he’s also in the same corner of the locker room as Cameron Wake, Andre Branch and William Hayes.

“He’s been exactly what you want a guy to be, especially for a young guy,” said Gase, who sent Godchaux out as one of the game captains against New England last week.

“I know Suh spends a lot of time with him. It started in the spring. I just think that’s kind of how he is built. (Suh) has just kind of got that natural leadership about him to where those young guys all kind of follow him.”

Following Suh around is never a bad plan, and that’s a strong starting point for Godchaux as he blossoms into a long-term piece for Miami.

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William Hayes on injured reserve; is his Miami Dolphins career over?

Dolphins defensive end William Hayes (95) tries to get the crowd fired up against the Jets at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Oct. 22, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — One of the few bright spots for the Dolphins this season is ending on a down note.

The Dolphins placed defensive end William Hayes on injured reserve Tuesday because of a back injury, ending his season and perhaps also his Dolphins career.

The move was expected. When coach Adam Gase was asked Monday if he expected Hayes to return this season, he said, “I’m thinking that would be probably tough for him to do.”

Hayes was signed as a free agent from the Rams this offseason to a one-year, $4.75 million contract.

Although he was signed primarily to solidify Miami’s run defense, Hayes quickly proved to be a valuable all-around addition whose impact extended beyond his statistics: 19 tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack and five quarterback hits.

But whether Hayes’ Dolphins career is over after just 10 games now is in question. He will become a free agent after the season and with the team falling to 4-7 and currently out of the playoff picture, changes are sure to follow.

Would a veteran who will be 33 next season still be in Miami’s plans? It could depend on Hayes’ price, although Gase has consistently expressed happiness with Hayes’ performance this season.

“He’s a guy that has played really well for us this year,” Gase told reporters a week ago.  “He has kind of set the tone on the edge. You guys have been around him long enough. The time you guys have kind of either met with him or watched him play, you can tell he’s a violent player. He’s a force. He really can kind of set the tempo for all that.”

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Miami Dolphins’ William Hayes, Xavien Howard and the strangest debate in history

Dolphins defensive end William Hayes. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — Baltimore Ravens receiver Jeremy Maclin is rude.

Offensive tackle Austin Howard needs to stop sticking his eye in other people’s fingers.

Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard would make an awful defense attorney.

And defensive end William Hayes says any video of him sticking his finger in Austin Howard’s eye is fake.

Those were the takeaways from a bizarre session of the Dolphins’ kangaroo court Friday, the Honorable Judge Hal Habib presiding.

There I was, hoping to get a word with Cameron Wake in the defensive linemen’s corner of the locker room when Hayes summoned me over, demanding to know why the media hadn’t reported on the fight Xavien Howard got into during practice Thursday.

With Howard’s antenna raised, we gathered by Hayes’ locker, and for the next 16 minutes — with Howard insisting I keep my voice recorder on — lunacy unfolded.

Hayes was glad Howard came over, certain Howard would support his claim that he did not poke Austin Howard in the eye, despite video evidence to the contrary.

“He deserves to be fined,” Xavien Howard said of Hayes.

Here’s an edited transcript of what followed. Much of it was said in jest — I think. Much of it wasn’t — I think. It’s a blur.

Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

You be the judge:

Hayes: Nah, I didn’t get in a fight.

Xavien Howard: He poked somebody in the eye.

Hayes: I never did that.

Howard: And he grabbed his facemask.

Hayes: Nah, I didn’t grab his facemask. Show me the video.

(Howard reaches for his phone.)

Hayes: What happened was — and I’m going to be totally honest with you — I was going over there to talk to him and he threw his face towards me.

Habib: He threw his face in your finger?

Hayes: Yes, sir.

Howard: He threw his face in your finger?

Hayes: He threw his helmet towards my finger.

Habib: What did you say to him and what did he say to you?

Hayes: I said, ‘C’mon, man. God wouldn’t like that. It’s too much going on out here within these communities for us to be doing that towards each other. For me, I’m all about positive vibes, bringing the community together. Stop bringing us apart.’

Habib: Did he say anything to you?

Hayes: He was very rude. Him and what’s their receiver’s name? Jeremy Maclin. Oh, yeah. Very nasty towards me. Very unprofessional.

Howard: I’m going to show you the video right now. (Howard cracks up as the video plays.) You see that? Look! Who looks like he started that?

Hayes: That might look one way but that really didn’t go that way.

Habib: How would you like for him to be your lawyer?

Hayes: I don’t know. This dude just threw me under the damn bus.

Habib: It seems he might be more like the prosecutor.

Howard: You didn’t see how he lied to you, though. He’s the one who started the fight, poking people in the eye. I think you should tweet that out. He deserves to be fined.

Habib: Did they fine you?

‘That video — you know how people can, like, Photoshop videos and stuff, like create fake videos? That’s really what that is.’ — William Hayes

Hayes: Absolutely not, Hal. I’m going to be completely honest. That video — you know how people can, like, Photoshop videos and stuff, like create fake videos? That’s really what that is.

Habib: That was Photoshopped?

Hayes: 110 percent.

Habib: How?

Hayes: You can’t see where my finger is, can you? Hal, have I not been one nice individual, one of the best individuals you’ve been around?

Howard: But did you see that video? You got a Twitter account? Just type ‘William Hayes fight.’

Hayes: Why do you have to look at bad things? What’s it say?

Habib (reading off phone): ‘William Hayes straight up jabbed him in the eye.’

Howard: (Cracks up.)

Hayes: Now tell me that (bleep) doesn’t look Photoshopped. How many cameras are out on the football field? You don’t think they can get a better picture than that?

Howard: Why is everybody tweeting it though?

Habib: You didn’t get fined or anything?

Howard: I think he should.

Hayes: No, I didn’t get fined.

Howard: ‘Cause the guy had a helmet on and his finger wouldn’t reach.

Hayes: Think about how stupid that sounds. I poked him in the eye (reaches for a helmet). You mean to tell me your finger can’t go through that helmet?

Habib (to Howard): What happened with your fight yesterday?

Howard: I didn’t have a fight.

Hayes: Ha!

Habib: He said you did.

Howard: I don’t fight people.

Habib: A disagreement? A difference of opinion?

Howard: What do you consider a fight?

Habib: Two guys throwing fists at each other.

Howard: OK. That didn’t happen.

Hayes: It’s on camera.

Howard: No, he’s on camera, poking a guy’s eye out.

Hayes: I guess they put the (bleep) back in and he went back into the game.

Howard: He poked it out!

Hayes, to Leonte Carroo: Hey, Carroo! ‘X’ got in a fight yesterday at practice?

Carroo: That’s what I heard.

Hayes: He got beat up yesterday. It was like both of them punched each other and knocked each other out.

Habib: Now the story changes. (To Howard) What incident is he referring to?

Howard: I don’t know. I’m lost.

(Back to studying the video, with Hayes now insisting he didn’t get into a fight, either …)

Howard: Did you see how he switched his story around? We heard the same thing, right? Can’t trust him. He tried to take his eyes out. He tried to end his career.

Hayes: You think I reached my finger in, stuck my (bleep) behind the socket and just popped it out? C’mon, man.

Howard: Ask Roger Goodell if he thinks he should be fined.

(At this point, the Dolphins were about to close their locker room. But first, compounding matters, fellow Post reporter Jason Lieser handed his phone to Hayes and Habib handed his to Howard, with both players threatening to tweet something about the other guy via the reporters’ Twitter accounts. Meanwhile, a panicked look washed over Brett Brecheisen, football communications manager of the Dolphins. When Lieser and Habib got their phones back, it was revealed that neither player actually sent their tweets, thereby enhancing the job security of all five involved.)

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Miami Dolphins’ once-frightful run defense now plays with ‘no fear,’ Ndamukong Suh says

Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints tackled by Kiko Alonso of the Dolphins as Lawrence Timmons (94) and Andre Branch (50) look on. (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

DAVIE — The Tennessee Titans have two of the top 25 rushers in the NFL, not to mention the possibility of a quarterback who can take off running at any time.

“Put no fear in my heart,” Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said Wednesday.

Suh can say that. Now. Whether he would have or could have said that last year is debatable. Teams were too busy running over and through the Dolphins for anyone to do any talking.

Even though three games is a tiny sample size, the contrast is startling.

This year: No. 5 against the run, 77.7 yards allowed per game.

Last year: No. 30 against the run, 140.4 yards allowed.

“We know last year, that wasn’t us, no matter if people made excuses about it being our first year together,” defensive end Andre Branch said. “At the end of the day, run defense is man against man and for us to stop the run, it just shows that everyone has pretty much owned up to their mistakes and everybody’s just doing their job.”

In a struggle of man against man, it’s not hard to imagine the feeling when, say, Buffalo is rushing for 272 yards against you, which happened in December. Or when every team in the second half of the season is rushing for at least 100 yards. Or when you’re giving up a team-record 2,247 rushing yards for the season.

“It’s tough when you check the stats, when you see a team has X amount of rushing yards,” Branch said. “It is frustrating because you practice your tail off and then you don’t get the results that you want.”

One sign that stopping the run has been a point of emphasis came from tackle Davon Godchaux as he discussed the Titans.

“We’ve got a big challenge,” Godchaux said. “Last year they rushed all over the Dolphins.”

Godchaux knew that even though a year ago, he was playing for LSU. But he was right. Last season, the Titans rushed for 235 yards in a 30-17 victory that dropped Miami to 1-4. The Dolphins managed to turn things around and make the playoffs even though teams continued to run all over them.

But it was clear something had to change.

“Guys just getting to the ball,” safety Reshad Jones said. “We’re fitting up. Guys are getting in their gaps and being where they need to be.”

Adding Godchaux has made a difference. So has the arrival of end William Hayes. And, now, linebacker Lawrence Timmons.

“Fury, fire and big hits,” Suh said of Timmons. “He’s a guy that obviously comes downhill. I love him and enjoy him playing behind me. I look forward to him continuing to progress in our defense and play off us as defensive linemen up front.”

One could argue that the run defense’s numbers are better because the pass defense ranks 27th, meaning teams haven’t had to run so much. But even when teams have tried to run, they haven’t gotten far, averaging 3.07 yards per carry compared to 4.8 last season. And that’s taking into account that one of their opponents was the Jets, who are seventh in the NFL in rushing.

Still, the Dolphins are 1-2. Getting support from the offense Sunday would be nice, because shutting out the Titans doesn’t seem realistic. Tennessee brings DeMarco Murray, the 17th-leading rusher with 215 yards (and a 5.1 average), and Derrick Henry, 25th with 178 yards (4.6).

“Both of them hit the holes hard,” Hayes said. “Murray might be a little bit more agile but they both get that ball and try to get yards after contact. They look for contact. It’s not like they shy away from it.”

Besides Murray and Henry, quarterback Marcus Mariota, who was limited in practice Wednesday with a hamstring injury, has rushed for 116 yards and three touchdowns.

“I think they’re a physical team but at the end of the day, put no fear in my heart,” Suh said. “I know as well as any other guy on my team and looking at those guys and their eyes, nobody is scared of them being physical or whatever. We embrace the challenge. We look forward to it. Like I said, I think you can see it in my face.”

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Miami Dolphins DE William Hayes: ‘We got a little too comfortable’

William Hayes, run stopper, also leads the Dolphins with three quarterback hits. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE — Defensive end William Hayes isn’t comfortable. Of course he isn’t. Those around him are saying he’s off to a strong start in his Dolphins career, but Hayes isn’t having any of it.

For one thing, the Dolphins are coming off an embarrassment against the Jets, so nobody in the locker room is in a particularly jovial mood entering Sunday’s game in London against the New Orleans Saints. Coach Adam Gase has used words such as “garbage” to describe the performance, but Hayes offered a slightly different perspective.

“I think we probably got a little too comfortable,” Hayes said. “That’s what it was. The practice wasn’t the greatest, but at the end of the day, I don’t know if that played a significant part. I just feel that we got comfortable and last week was a good reminder to show us that in order to win these games week in and week out, you’ve got to focus on the small details.”

Hayes said the team has been “one-minded” this week.

“We’ll be fine,” he said.

If everyone plays up to Hayes’ standard thus far, they will be. Defensive coordinator Matt Burke singled out Hayes, acquired in the offseason in a trade with the Rams, as a reason the Dolphins have jumped from 30th in the NFL against the run last season to fifth to start this season. They’re allowing 73.5 yards per game — half of last season’s debacle.

“He’s a hard guy to block,” Burke said. “He takes pride in it. He’s a tempo setter for us.”

Although Hayes said, “My primary goal when I came here was to help with the run defense and that’s what I’ve been doing,” there’s more to his game.

Hayes has one of the Dolphins’ three sacks and leads the team in quarterback hits with three. So he’s helping in pass defense, too.

“I don’t find that interesting at all,” said fellow end Andre Branch in what was intended as a compliment. “We know who he is. He knows who he is. It’s no surprise to me.”

Burke’s history with Hayes goes back to when he was on the staff of the Tennessee Titans, who drafted Hayes in the fourth round in 2008.

“We drafted him out of Winston-Salem State,” Burke said. “He was a small-school kid. He came into the NFL and literally, sort of like he is now, it wasn’t too big for him. I know you guys (reporters) probably get the offbeat side of him but he’s a tough SOB. He’s a hardcore dude. He was like that from the start. Again, sometimes you get those small-school players and it’s too big. He never blinked.”

That “offbeat side” is a reference to Hayes’ unconventional theories, such as believing in mermaids, which should not obscure his ability on the field. Or his expectations of himself, despite Burke’s compliments.

“I just haven’t played at my standards,” Hayes said. “Not to sound bad, I don’t really care about what other people think. I know what I can do.”

How much more can he contribute?

“Significant,” he said. “For whatever reason, I haven’t been getting as much production as I like.”

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Newcomers like William Hayes benefiting from Miami Dolphins’ excursion

William Hayes is one of the Dolphins’ most interesting personalities. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

OXNARD, Calif.—There’s been a lot of bonding going on lately with the Miami Dolphins. More than they originally intended, in fact.

The real “team chemistry” venture was supposed to be the week in Philadelphia last month when they held joint practices with the Eagles, but Hurricane Irma created a new adventure by prompting the team to relocate to Oxnard, Calif., for the week as it prepares for Sunday’s game against the Chargers.

The move, which has the Dolphins staying and practicing at a run-of-the-mill suburban hotel, has created ample opportunities for newer players to get to know the rest of the team better. In the case of Williams Hayes, who arrived via trade in March, it means plenty of chances to talk about his legendary theories.

Beyond football, Hayes is well-known in the NFL for his takes on dinosaurs (they don’t exist), mermaids (they might), the moon landing (seems suspicious, to say the least) and various other topics.

He finally convinced someone this week, by the way: Mike Pouncey. Which theory has he bought into? All of them, Hayes claimed.

“Yeah,” Hayes joked after practice today. “He really don’t know too much anyway, so I’ve had a chance to really educate him. Pouncey’s definitely on board with everything—just life. I’m just teaching him how to be a man. That’s it. Those life lessons that he didn’t get growing up, I’m doing that for him now.”

In all seriousness, the return to the Los Angeles area has been terrific for Hayes. His family still lives in Manhattan Beach because they didn’t want his son to change schools, and he’s made some significant connections with his new football family.

He made it sound as though players haven’t left the hotel much, so they’ve been hanging out in various rooms most of the week. Much of the team has been here since Friday.

“The more time you can spend with the guys, you create better relationships with everybody,” Hayes said. “It’s been real fun being able to talk to a lot more guys and enjoy each other’s company. We’ll probably get something good out of it in the long run.

“It’s about football and really just getting a chance to know my teammates—not on a silly level, but really another level beyond just trying to entertain everybody. I’ve been here six months, so I’m trying to figure out my teammates and see how they feel on an everyday basis.”

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Ex-teammate Chris Long explains quirky Dolphins DE William Hayes

Miami Dolphins DE William Hayes probably is suspicious of the eclipse. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

PHILADELPHIA—As far as disappointments go, this is one of the biggest: Dolphins defensive lineman William Hayes did not speak to the media today, the day of the solar eclipse.

Hayes, who has theories on many scientific matters, was not available to discuss the rare event, which took place this afternoon following the team’s joint practice with the Eagles. However, longtime friend Chris Long was on hand to give some insight.

“He probably thinks the government is orchestrating the eclipse,” said Long, a Philadelphia defensive end.

Long and Hayes played together from 2012 through ’15 with the St. Louis Rams before Long went to New England last year. Long considers Hayes one of his most beloved friends in the league.

Long described Hayes as one of the best locker room guys he’s ever encountered, saying he has a unique way of lightening the mood but also raising the intensity of practices. He’s also enjoyable, of course, because of those theories.

Once, to mess with Hayes, Long got him some dinosaur figurines as a gift because Hayes is adamant that they never existed.

“I don’t know 100 percent if he’s serious about mermaids, but I know he’s 100 percent serious about dinosaurs,” Long said. “He thinks the fossils were planted. Some people are just so convinced of what they believe that they’re not trying to convince you because it doesn’t matter what you think. It’s just reality for him.

“So when we were in St. Louis I bought him a set of dinosaur toys and put them in his locker, and until the day we left he kept them there because he said, ‘I can’t bring these home to my kids because I don’t want them to believe in that fake (stuff).’”

Long made clear, though, that there’s much more to Hayes than his entertaining beliefs and antics. He and Hayes spent 24 hours living homelessly in St. Louis in 2015 to spread awareness of the issue and raise money for St. Patrick Center, an organization that works to empower homeless people in that city.

Apparently, that kind of effort is right in line with who Hayes is.

“He’s got the biggest heart of anybody I’ve ever played with,” Long said. “Every Christmas he was thinking of ways that we could go help people under the radar, buying furniture for people in low-income housing, bringing toys for kids for Christmas, and it was never like, ‘Where are the cameras?’ It was always, ‘Let’s just go do this.’”

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William Hayes already knows he wants to finish his career a Miami Dolphin

Miami Dolphins defensive end William Hayes is a complete defensive end, according to his coaches. He’s colorful, but also cares greatly about his work. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — William Hayes knows you’ve heard about his belief in mermaids and doubts about dinosaurs, but he’d like you to know he takes his job really seriously.

“Make a difference,” Hayes said. “Do something positive. Play at a high level.”

The thing about Hayes is that how well he plays the game of football has been somewhat overshadowed by a colorful personality that led to memorable appearances on Hard Knocks and Jimmy Kimmel.

It is not possible to write about Hayes without writing about his personality.

But that the Dolphins landed one of the most under-the-radar acquisitions of the off-season, a man who can play defensive end and defensive tackle and create pressure and stop the run, must not be overlooked here.

Who appears, in training camp and the preseason opener, to be helping the Dolphins get interior push and actually setting an effective edge against the run?

“William Hayes,” defensive line coach Terrell Williams, says, succinctly.

Hayes has been trying to stay a bit under the radar this preseason.

His objective is to create more disruption and more news on the field than off at the latest stop of his career.

And it’s working.

Assistant defensive line coach Andre Carter recently brought up Hayes in a conversation about Cameron Wake, Andre Branch and Ndamukong Suh’s impact on inexperienced defensive linemen Charles Harris and Davon Godchaux.

“I’ll tell you what,” Carter said after one recent practice. “One guy who really stands out is Will Hayes. He’s a true professional.”

Hayes had an excellent preseason debut, showing surprising speed and determination in pursuit of both running backs and quarterbacks.

“We wanted a guy that’s going to be aggressive versus the run and still rush the passer, and he has done a great job,” Gase told Kim Bokamper at halftime of the Falcons game.

Now that’s it’s been established that Hayes can play, and play at a really high level (Pro Football Focus graded Hayes nearly as highly as Suh and Wake in 2016) there is still time to discuss his personality.

Hayes likes to talk, on the field.

He admits he’s even done research into the lives of opponents for a competitive yapping advantage.

“It’s just anything I can get on you, I try to use and try to take you out of your game,” Hayes said.

Hayes also loves contact. As in he seeks violent contact out at all times.

“Hockey has the enforcer,” Carter said. “The goon. If there is one person that’s the goon it’s Will Hayes. Always talking trash, but I’ll you what he backs it up.”

Last season, Branch was Miami’s biggest defensive line talker.

But it turns out the Dolphins have two spark plugs on the line now.

“When we need a boost he’s our guy,” Carter said.

Hayes has taken on a mentoring role with the youngsters, working with them on techniques long after practice. And even offering investing advice.

Harris referred to Hayes as “the monk on our team. He knows a lot of things off the field.”

How much does Hayes have left?

“I’m not going to 40, right now I can tell you that,” Hayes said with a smile. “I ain’t got that Tom Brady in me. I’m 32. But I’ve got a lot of good years left in.”

And here’s some more good news about Hayes.

He loves Miami. He loves coach Adam Gase. He loves his teammates.

Hayes is trying not to make too many bold statements before the season even starts. But this is pretty bold: he’s already decided he’d like to finish his career as a Dolphin.

“I’m happy,” Hayes said. “I want to spend the rest of my little career I’ve got left out here. And just give them everything I’ve got. I’m enjoying myself and having fun. It’s a good situation.”


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