D.J. Hayden bounces back after being burned


ALAMEDA — The Raiders secondary had just taken a beating of historic proportions from a backup quarterback and a receiver not well known for his on-field brilliance, or brilliance in general.

After D.J. Hayden played the worst game of his young career — allowing three touchdown passes to sail over him — he looked to be in good spirits Wednesday.

There was no sulking, no frown. Even a smile. It’s something that he and head coach Dennis Allen attributes to his past.

On bouncing back from Sunday‘s game, Hayden said:

“It’s about how you respond to it. … A couple of (veteran players) came and spoke to me and gave me encouraging words. It helped me a lot. I just have to focus in and do my job.”

During his final college game, Hayden was laid out during what looked like a routine play and required heart surgery to survive. It’s something that very few people and even fewer football players have had to deal with.

Allen said that it’s something that he thinks will help Hayden bounce back quickly:

“Nothing in football can compare to what he went to and the type of mental toughness than it takes to battle through the injury he had. Not a lot of people have had to go through what he’s had to go through. Being a rookie is one thing and that’s got it’s own unique challenges.”

After being battered by Riley Cooper and DeSean Jackson, Hayden will this week have to cover one of the shiftiest receivers in football, the New York Giants’ Victor Cruz.

Delivering the ball will be two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Eli Manning, who has thrown more interceptions this season than touchdowns, 15 and 10 respectively.

Though his season began in a funk, Manning has not thrown a pick in two consecutive games entering Sunday. He told media during a conference call that the reason was simple:

“I guess I’ve just been throwing the ball to guys with the same jersey as me.”

If only it were that simple.

The past two games the New York Giants have played were against the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings, two of the worst defensive teams in the NFL. Before Sunday’s thrashing, the Raiders’ secondary was ranked 16th and the run defense was a stout 6th, only allowing 89 rush yards per game.

Despite facing a team that went from trust-to-bust, pulling out a win still won’t be easy for Oakland.

Ranking dead last in passing yards before Terrelle Pryor threw for 288 yards and gained another 94 with his legs Sunday against the Eagles — Oakland has struggled on offense. And the issues are no worse than in the red zone.

Last week while hosting the Eagles, Oakland gained 560 total offensive yards but scored only one touchdown. While there have been some signs of life from the offense, it’s been a tough stretch anytime they move the ball past the 20 yard line.

Menelik Watson, who returned to the active roster against the Eagles, should get the chance to help starting at left tackle. This season — only his third year of football — began when he was was drafted by the Raiders in the second round after playing one at Saddleback College in California and another at Florida State University.

Watson says he has been working hard on getting back into shape and that he has spent a great deal of time watching film. He has been doing whatever he can to perfect the mental aspect of the game but that watching film only counts for so much. He added:

“When you get out there and run through the reps it really counts, but it’s been good. Mike Briesel has been doing a good job of just being in my ear. (Wisniewski) has been talking to me a lot. Tony Pashos and Khalif (Barnes) have been helping a lot too, so with guys like that it just makes the transition easier. Especially after not playing a lot of football this year.”

With the usual starting left tackle, Jared Veldheer, still a game or two out from injury, Watson has been a welcomed addition to the offensive unit.

Follow @SFBay and @JLeskiwNFL on Twitter and at for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.

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