This is a prove-it year for GM Reggie McKenzie’s first ever first-round pick, DJ Hayden, and he’s embraced that fact as a motivational axe about to chop down his NFL career. Asked to switch to nickel corner last year, Hayden didn’t hesitate, and seems to have found a niche in the slot.
Coach Jack Del Rio has roundly praised Hayden this offseason and Hayden’s impressive progression in the slot has continued throughout training camp, as he has taken the majority of first-team reps and pulled in an interception along with some nice pass breakups per Eddie Paskal of Raiders.com.
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Incumbent TJ Carrie still has a shot to start at slot corner, but Hayden by all accounts has played better – and more often – than Carrie. Carrie’s versatility at corner and safety and ability to return kicks means he’ll still see significant time and is an important piece of the Raiders depth – but Hayden finally seems to be turning the corner as a corner, and is ready to cement his role.
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