Aug 22, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Charles Johnson (12) catches a pass past Oakland Raiders cornerback D.J. Hayden (25) for a touchdown in the second quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Similar to Week 1 of the preseason, DJ Hayden has become a subject of much discussion due to what many consider a poor showing. It would be silly to argue that he is performing well, but that does not mean this preseason is the evidence he is a bust. Remember, he has only played in ten games in two seasons and this is his first full training camp. DJ may have given up some yards in the game and yes there was a touchdown thrown against him, but he played a solid game technique wise and is growing.
On the first drive on third down Hayden was called for illegal contact. It is not clear to me where the call comes from or what caused the flag. Later in that drive the Raiders were in a soft off man coverage with both corners and the Vikings threw a slant route against him. That is a schematic loss not a player’s fault. On the third drive, Hayden gave up a first down while in soft off man coverage playing against a curl route. It is clear with the play call they were concerned with Johnson going over the top and gave him the cushion. The play had perfect timing and Hayden could not come downhill fast enough to break it up.
What is more agonizing about this play is how Raider Nation reacted to it. This completion drove a lot of grief Hayden’s way, although the drive before this Neiko Thorpe gave up a first down on the exact same route concept while he was in an identical coverage. Yet and expectedly, Thorpe was not trashed. The last play which caught the ire of Raider fans, was the touchdown to Charles Johnson.
To blame Hayden for giving up that touchdown is a way for Raider fans to limit the credit that is due to Teddy Bridgewater. That was an incredible throw and Hayden was in perfect coverage right in his back pocket. Yes his head was not turned, but had he turned he simply would have given Johnson more space. The best he can do there is to disrupt the catch when it hits the receivers hands, but the throw was so perfect Hayden could not reach it.
All in all Hayden played a mediocre game and the issue here is not his play, but rather Raider Nation’s expectations. You cannot expect him to come out of the gates in year three as a shutdown cornerback. He may and I emphasize may become that by the end of the year, but he needs time and reps. Right now he is healthy and he is learning in practice going against three very good route runners in Cooper, Crabtree, and Streater. I understand that after three years fans are frustrated, but Hayden is only going to get better if given the time and patience to develop.
Next: Raiders Notebook: Mario Edwards Jr.