November 20, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders cornerback D.J. Hayden (25) before the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at O.co Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Chiefs 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports
By James Arcellana.
The Oakland Raiders chose to go with a young and mostly unproven group of corners to start the year and many believed it was a foolish move. Yet through two games, it’s not the corners who have struggled the most on defense. In fact, the corners have actually played much better than expected. They aren’t great by any means but they have shown that they can be good enough if they can just get a little more help from the pass rush. A big part of the reason they could be good enough is the fact that D.J. Hayden is finally starting to show signs that he is ready to be a solid corner in the NFL.
For the first two years of his professional career, Hayden showed the occasional flash but spent far more time on the sidelines nursing injuries than he did on the field making plays. This year, he was finally able to stay healthy through an entire offseason and and enter the year with a lot of practice under his belt. On Sunday, the time on the field showed as Hayden had one of his better days as a pro.
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Hayden was by no means a shut down corner on Sunday as he gave up five catches for 54 yards on eight targets, but he did some good things as well. In particular, Hayden finally did what people have been begging him to do for years now, looking for and playing the ball. The result was that Hayden had two pass defenses in the game, both on plays where he had very good coverage.
Hayden still may never live up to the first round status of where he was selected, but at some point, fans need to move past that. It’s not his fault he was selected that high and at this point, the Raiders can use all of the help they can get. If he turns out to be a decent to solid number two corner, that would be an upgrade from what many expected to get out of him heading into the year. I mean, to be realistic, playing 16 games would be more than most expected heading into the season. If Hayden can build off of his week two performance and continue to get better, the Raiders will have themselves a set of respectable NFL corners for the first time in a long time.