Time to Take the Training Wheels off Darrius Heyward-Bey

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Adjusting to the NFL is never easy for a wide receiver. Guys like Randy Moss might have made it look easy enough but that is the exception. Generally the rule is that young receivers play limited roles while learning the NFL ways slowly getting more and more responsibility until they’ve blossomed into legit #1’s.

While all of that might be ideal in a perfect world the reality is that any receiver drafted in the top 10 is held to a much higher standard. This is the unfortunate fate of Darrius Heyward-Bey.

His speed and size assured he’d be a first round pick. No matter what jokes you might hear made at the expense of Al Davis he wasn’t the only man that had DHB high on his draft board. Of course nobody else had Hey-Bey as the top receiver in the draft and that is the real issue.

Ever the gambler, Davis rolled the dice on Heyward-Bey and thus far has seen snake eyes. There were no secrets that he was a project. It’s just that when you’re a $30-million project patience isn’t something fans want to hear.

I’ve been as guilty as any for bashing DHB. I appreciate the fact that he’s regarded as a good teammate, willing to put in the work thanks to a very coachable mentality. But all that Mr. Nice guy stuff doesn’t win Super Bowls. I’m not saying I’d rather have TO but after two years of NFL service I’m expecting more of a top 10 pick than being a decoy and a good blocker.

Give the Raiders credit. From day one the entire organization from Davis down to DHB’s teammates have been positive when discussing his progress. You’ve never heard anyone utter a disparaging remark at his expense. That fact speaks volumes of how he’s appreciated for his efforts.

My problem is that this is the NFL. Ask Jerry Glanville and he’ll tell you that means Not For Long in a bottom line business.

I’m sure DHB is putting plenty of pressure on himself. Despite that the time has come for the team to be applying the same pressure. Handling Al’s pet project with kid gloves is a good approach for the short term. For the long haul it’s a recipe for disaster.

Heyward-Bey is nothing like that guy that used to sport #2. But if he continues to get the benefit of the doubt like #2 used to then it will be a bad situation going forward.

As a rookie DHB was handed the starting job despite doing next to nothing to earn it. Fellow rookie Louis Murphy outplayed Hey-Bey from the jump and continues to do so despite his inconsistent tendencies. Now that wouldn’t be as big a problem unless…say…another rookie came along and showed the ability to catch on quickly.

Jacoby Ford wasn’t expected to be much more than a special teams contributor in his first NFL season. Problem was he never got that memo. When given the chance Ford made plays and forced his way into an expanded role.

Given many of those same opportunities Heyward-Bey has done little in terms of production in the receiving game.

There are signs that the team is turning up the heat on DHB. The Raiders continue to draft receivers and this year was no exception as Davis dialed up another stopwatch dandy by selecting Denarius Moore. While his selection might seem innocent, Moore’s arrival adds another deep threat to the roster. If stretching the field was supposed to be Heyward-Bey’s best contribution then Moore could be the guy that ultimately makes him expendable.

While taking a patient approach with Heyward-Bey is commendable it’s a tactic that won’t work if this team has any serious designs on getting back into the playoffs. There is no substitute for production when you’re a wide receiver. At no fault of his own DHB just hasn’t shown much to merit his draft status. If he continues to get the benefit of the doubt you can bet there will be some animosity festering in a now healthy locker room.

The scholarship mentality must be removed in order for the Raiders to take the next step. Heyward-Bey alone is not holding this team back. His work ethic might be great but so too is the ethic of many men that fill practice squads throughout the NFL.

Moral victories off the field are good for the individual. Victories on the field are what is best for the team. DHB might be a good teammate but he wasn’t drafted for morale. That’s the job of the Raiderettes to do on Sundays. Until every man in Silver and Black is held to the same standard then I’m afraid things aren’t going to change too drastically whenever we get back to football. Hopefully when those locks do come off Hue Jackson will be in DHB’s face everyday until he reaches his true potential.

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Tags: Al Davis, Oakland Raiders, Raider Nation, Fans, Popular, Featured Darrius Heyward-Bey Denarius Moore Hue Jackson Jacoby Ford Jerry Glanville Louis Murphy Randy Moss Terrell Owens

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