2013 first round draft pick D.J. Hayden came under fire as his debut season at cornerback for the Oakland Raiders as the Houston product faced even more adversity after having perhaps the toughest path to the NFL of the first round picks in recovering from a nearly fatal practice injury that ended his college career. Missing a full training camp thanks to recovering from surgery, Hayden’s body wasn’t ready for the rigors of a full NFL season and he hit the injury reserve due to a sports hernia following a game where he did not look 100% while getting memorably burned by Riley Cooper of the Eagles.
Still despite pockets of Raider fans trying to unjustly label Hayden a “bust” after under half a season, the corner did have a strong game against the San Diego Chargers where he showed his ball hawking tendencies and has been reported to have put in a lot of work over the offseason to get ready for his sophomore season where he has a mission to prove his detractors wrong. Adding weight to be more physical and getting a true offseason he wasn’t awarded in his rookie season preparations, Hayden quietly has been impressing those around the organization over the spring.
Jason Tarver broke that silence recently as San Francisco Chronicle beat writer Vic Tafur pointed out that the Raiders defensive coordinator took time on a radio spot with the team’s flagship station 95.7 The Game to give some praise for the quietly hard working Hayden. Pointing out that after a difficult 2013 and hard work in the offseason that success should be on the way as a reward for a long two years for his young cornerback.
“D.J. saw just about everything, both in life and in football, happen to him in his rookie season,” Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said on 95.7, via Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle. “From his surgeries to his injuries to what he’s overcome personally, physically, everything. He’s a great young man, working hard right now. He’s honing his technique, he looks explosive and he’s put on weight and strength. And he’s really focusing in on learning the little things in the defense so that he can play faster and be more aggressive on certain types of routes. He’s definitely on the upswing.”
Healthy and able to add to his physique this offseason, 2014 is a big year for Hayden as he will look to get his first full NFL season under his belt. No longer a rookie, Hayden’s biggest advantage is still his upside which depending on who you ask is amongst the highest of the young corners in the league. Putting in the work to turn that upside into talent, Hayden is looking to prove all those who were quick to call him a bust during his rookie season wrong. Something his defensive coordinator thinks is a definite possibility in 2014.