Oakland’s Young Gun Cornerbacks

3 of 3

Nov 9, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders cornerback D.J. Hayden (25) breaks up a pass intended for Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (88) in the third quarter at O.co Coliseum. The Broncos defeated the Raiders 41-17. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

DJ Hayden

This man is not a bust. At least not yet. Hayden is the anti Keith McGill. At 5’11”, 190, Hayden utilizes his intelligence and footwork to stay with his man. Hayden is very good at coming out of his backpedal and breaking on the ball. Yes, VERY GOOD. Hayden also has clearly above average ball skills. Watch his interception of Philip Rivers in Week 5 of 2013 or one of his 3 interceptions against the Broncos in 2014.

The problem is whether he can stay on the field or not. Injuries were a concern for Hayden before he even came into the league, leading many critics to claim he was a reach as a first round draft pick. As of today the injury concern still has not been completely resolved.

Hayden is still a work in progress. Hayden received a -2.6 PFF grade in 2014, which isn’t atrocious, but not where a first round draft pick needs to be. He finished the season 7th on the team in tackles (45), only missing seven tackles all season. Part of the problem though is that he gave up a lot of completions, including 6 touchdowns. He needs to work on breaking up more passes instead of simply being there for the tackle.

The upside with Hayden is that he’s generally exactly where he needs to be on the field. He has a solid understanding of where he needs to position himself with zone and man coverage in relation to the other players on the field, and can play both fairly well. It’ll be interesting to see where he improves with *hopefully* a fully healthy offseason and a complete starting season under his belt.

October 19, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders cornerback T.J. Carrie (38) runs the football against Arizona Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel (28) during the first quarter at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

TJ Carrie

The seventh round draft pick is the best cornerback on the roster and it’s not close. He has better size than Hayden at 6’0″, 205 lbs (compared to Hayden’s 5″11, 190), and much better awareness and footwork than both Ross and McGill at the cornerback position. Contracts might get in the way, but Carrie should be the number 1 cornerback on the field.

He finished the season with a cumulative 0.0 PFF grade – meaning be basically did exactly what he needed to do on each play, while not going too much above or below. He also finished the season just behind Hayden with 43 tackles, and averaged an allowed 86.1 passer rating against him all season.

Carrie needs to work on his ball skills a little and overall needs to elevate his game into more above average levels, but he plays consistent. He still has some issues getting out of his backpedal and transitioning back and forth, but he’s generally found himself in the right spot to make a play. Carrie played all 17 games in 2014 and was used in a variety of ways. He was excellent outside and fairly solid inside as a slot corner.

This brings up an interesting situation. With Carrie clearly being not only the best corner on the team, but the best slot corner on the team, one can envision an scenario in which he starts at slot corner while McGill starts outside. That or Carrie starts outside but moves inside for the nickel packages a la Carlos Rogers. Either way might work for the team considering their added experience over the top with the safeties, but the latter option would be preferable.

These young corners might not yet have what it takes to be a formidable presence on the Raiders defense, but the possibility is there. This will be first year of everyone playing together under a new coaching for a complete offseason and season. The potential is not yet worth clinging to, but it’s definitely not as bad as it may seem. Perhaps we will be shown that Del Rio and McKenzie deserved more credit than originally acknowledged.