Oakland Raiders CB D.J. Hayden Ready to Start In 2015


Dec 28, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Oakland Raiders cornerback D.J. Hayden (25) tackles Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson (22) in the fourth quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Raiders 47-14. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to the prospects drafted by Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, 2013 first round selection D.J. Hayden may be the most divisive when it comes to opinions on the progress of the cornerback drafted out of the University of Houston. Injured in both of his first two seasons with the team, fans have often criticized the player and the scouting staff who brought him on, citing that he has been a risky first round pick that hasn’t panned out. Others have suggested he is going to be a capable starter when healthy, as evidenced by a handful of big plays he has made when he is on the field to make up for the stretches of time he has missed.

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What everyone can agree on however is that Hayden needs to finally get a full offseason and as many regular season games under his belt as possible if he is going to prove that he was the right pick in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft as McKenzie’s first opening round selection made as a general manager. Hayden needing to get valuable experience to prove that he can be reliable for the long haul in Oakland with just two more seasons left on his rookie contract with the Raiders.

Hayden’s injury problems and brief bouts with inconsistent play haven’t deterred the team from putting a ton of faith in him leading up to the 2015 season. Rather than go out and spend on cornerback talent in free agency, McKenzie and new head coach Jack Del Rio have opted to place some weight on the shoulders of their young cornerbacks. Recent draft picks such as TJ Carrie and Keith McGill expected to jump in with Hayden to take starting reps this season in a surprising move that could determine the fate of the Raiders season depending on if the risk pays off or not in entrusting the secondary to a group of young and unproven corners.

In a recent interview with Raiders.com, Hayden addressed the team’s trust in the young corners on the roster. Excited that a new coaching staff as well as the general manager that drafted him in the first round have the belief that he along with a batch of young teammates on the roster can get the job done in 2015.

“It’s a sign that they believe in us,” Hayden said in the interview. “They believe in the young guys to come over and help this team win. I feel like me, TJ [Carrie], Neiko [Thorpe], Keith [McGill], we are all going to do the thing this year and help this secondary be one of the top ones in the National Football League.”

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Confident in his own abilities, Hayden added that he isn’t feeling the pressure because he thinks that if he didn’t have his injury struggles that he would already be a starter in Oakland. Something that is probably a fact as the biggest roadblock to the young player’s success has been his struggles in getting on the practice field in the offseason and starting the season once the games start on Sundays.

“I don’t think of it as more [pressure],” Hayden boldly claimed. “I just think of it as… if I wasn’t hurt last year I’d probably already be in this position. I’m in this position now and I’m ready for it.”

Hayden has a right to be confident as he has made big plays to intercept division rival quarterbacks such as Phillip Rivers and Peyton Manning in his first two seasons, but if he is going to be the number one cornerback the team needs there is a lot of work to be done. Despite being confident in his own abilities, Hayden likely knows there is plenty of work that needs to be put in during OTAs and training camp to get to where he needs to be. Progression in the offseason and health will go a long way for Hayden to have his breakout season, but for now the 2013 first round pick is excited that a new coaching staff is going to give him every opportunity to thrive in the upcoming season.

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