2011 will go down as the year Darrius Heyward-Bey proved his status as a professional receiver. If he’ll ever live up to his draft status it will take a big step forward. But give DHB credit cause he has improved his stock each of his three years in the league.
If Hey-Bey’s improvement in 2012 equals or surpasses his upgrade from last season, then the talk of elite status will come up. That’s not hot air either.
DHB doubled his career total in grabs pulling 64 of his 99 career catches. He also showed why that Raider speed is such a weapon when you run clean routes. He averaged 15 yards a catch continuing his steady incline from 13 a grab as a rookie.
Most important of all he found the end zone with those 4 TDs coming in almost every way possible from great grabs in the corner of the end zone to catch and run with that see-ya-later speed. And yes, your eyes did not deceive you. He made some sick catches away from his body. Those hands are getting better each day it seems.
All that and Heyward-Bey fell just 75 yards short of cracking 1,000-yards. That would have been the first man to do so in a silver and black shirt since the slouch was in the house.
What is refreshing is that you know if DHB has anymore room for growth he’ll work at it like a mad man to get there. Quiet as kept he’s done nothing but improve despite the constant changes in coaches, play callers, quarterbacks and even dealing with injury. How much higher his ceiling goes remains to be seen in the coming year.
What makes 2012 so crucial is that it all has to come together for Heyward-Bey. The Reggie McKenzie regime is looking over every inch of the franchise. This year the eyes will be on DHB to find out if he can be a legit #1 in the NFL. He’s suddenly the veteran of a young group of receivers so the ability to lead will be as much a part of that evaluation process as his ability to catch.