After doing some research for the article on Keilen Dykes' future with the Cardinals, I was so intrigued that I decided that I had to get some more information on him. That led me to Scout.com and more specifically, West Virginia Mountaineers' scout site, BlueGoldNews.com. Publisher, Kevin Kinder was kind enough to answer my questions and his first hand experience should give us a better picture of what we have in young Keilen Dykes.
Q - Dykes seems to be the kind of guy that every team would want, a team captain, a leader by example (2007 Iron Mountaineer award), and a four year consistent starter. So why do you think that so many teams passed on him in the draft? Did it hurt his draft stock when he wasn't invited to the combine?
A - As I'm sure your readers know, great performance in college doesn't always transfer to high draft status. I think the thing that hurt Keilen the most is that he didn't jump off any of the charts in terms of workout numbers or "athletic ability". While he's certainly a top flight college player, he didn't have those measurables that often seem to determine draft status. Not being selected to the combine certainly didn't help his stock, either, although I'm not sure if that was as big of a factor.
Q - For what I remember from WVU games and what I've read since the draft, the Mountaineers ran a 4-3 defense exclusively. Did they ever switch to any other defense or a three man line, even if only in obvious passing situations? If so, did Dykes play anywhere else other than defensive tackle?
A - This is one thing that should really help him in his effort to make the team. WVU runs an odd-stack defense (3-3-5) as its base, and Keilen, being WVU's best lineman, played both the nose and tackle positions over the past two seasons. WVU also went to a four man front in some situations to mix things up and provide more pass rush pressure, and Dykes could slide to either position there as well. He is very intelligent, and doesn't have any problem switching assignments or positions on the fly, so I could see him being a swing guy who could provide help at more than one spot.
Q - With the Cardinals and their 3-4 defense, most assume that Dykes will have to move outside to defensive end. Do you think his skill set would thrive at defensive end or would he be better suited to add 15 pounds or so and try and become a nose tackle?
A - Tough call. As you note, he's kind of in between in terms of size. If pressed to make a pick, I think the inside spot might be just a little better for him. The one thing he doesn't have is an outstanding pass rush move, so if Arizona depends on its ends to beat a double team and provide sacks, that might be an issue. His strengths are in standing his ground, battling and fending off blockers. He has very good hand positioning, and is very good in the technical aspects of interior defensive line play. So, inside might be the spot, but I still think that he could be the type of player to get some snaps at either position. Granted, he'd be smallish for a nose, but if he's a backup that gets a couple of series at each, that's not as much of a factor. I don't think you'd have to worry about him getting worn down or overpowered. He's a gritty competitor that battles blockers to standstills.
Q - What part of Dykes' game needs to most improvement for him to be able to stick in the NFL? What is his biggest attribute that coaches will fall in love with?
A - Pass rush moves. Most of his sacks in college came by sheer work -- beating on blockers until he got by them. If he can develop a go to move that allows him to put more pressure on offensive linemen, he will make a pro team.
Coaches will love his willingness to work and learn, and his locker room presence. I know he's just a rookie, and thus at the bottom of the NFL food chain, but he's a great leader both on and off the field. He battles on every play, and sets a great example with his work ethic. I know that in the NFL it's all about performance, but I think these qualities have to count for something.
Q - Lastly, what is the one thing that Cardinals' fans should know about Keilen Dykes that they can't find in any scouting report?
A - He has a great sense of humor, and is very passionate in what he does. When it's time to work, he goes at it full force, but he's a prankster that keeps friends and teammates loose.
In the end, we all still know that the deck is still stacked against Dykes this season. It would take a minor miracle for him to make the roster coming out of camp simply because of the amount of depth ahead of him all across the defensive line. For now though, I'm optimistic that they got a guy who has the skills and character to help this team win in the future. Thoughts?
Many thanks to Kevin for taking the time and providing us with some quality insights.