ALAMEDA — D.J. Hayden hasn’t played the kind of football generally expected of a first-round pick.
Not that the second-year cornerback has played poorly, but he’s missed 14 of 24 games through his second year out of the University of Houston.
Hayden sustained a foot injury during team activities in May and is now impressing coaches while he shaking off the rust.
Defensive Coordinator Jason Tarver spoke Thursday on Hayden’s performance against Seattle in Week 9:
“D.J. did some really good things. He had zero true mental errors. He knows what he’s doing. What he needs to continue to do, like all young players, the best way to get better at playing football is playing football. He’s done a nice job this week in practice understanding times of penalties and controlling his hands down the field, things like that. He’s been emphasizing it and it’s good. He’s right in his progression and he’s improving every day.”
Hayden was drafted in the first round of the 2013 draft after suffering a life-threatening heart injury with less than a month remaining in his college career.
He first showed up on the stat sheet with a game-sealing interception off Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers in Week 5 of his rookie season.
Weeks later, Nick Foles picked him apart, and Hayden was placed on injured reserve with a sports hernia a few days after the game.
His college tape makes it clear why the Raiders drafted him despite the heart surgery in November 2012, shadowing receivers like hair on the back of their neck.
Cornerback Carlos Rogers is injured and will not play Sunday, which will force Hayden to emerge from his extended football absence in a hurry. The fact that he’ll be doing it against the most historically awesome offense in the NFL makes it a daunting challenge, but Hayden chuckled as he said:
“Tell (Peyton Manning) ‘c’mon then. I’m going to prepare myself like they might throw the ball my way on every play. … I’m ready.”
Since returning to the active roster two weeks ago, Hayden has played incrementally more snaps during games, and this will be Hayden’s first home start since Oakland was torched by the Eagles last season.
Week 10 Notes
Carlos Rogers isn’t the only defensive back listed as out for Sunday’s tilt against Denver. Chimdi Chekwa joins him while rookie T.J. Carrie is questionable and rookie Keith McGill is probable after being limited in practice most of the week. … Guard Gabe Jackson will not play Sunday, and Khalif Barnes will take his place on the left side on the interior line. Tight end David Ausberry is also out. … The Raiders have emphasized third down defense after letting several teams off the hook during the first half of the season. Denver ranks sixth in the league in third down conversions with 184 total and a 44.7 percent success rate. … The Raiders will have their defense tested big time on such plays, and fans will get a glimpse on just how much, if any, Oakland has improved in this facet of the game. … The coaching staff has been adamant that they’ve seen improvement, and when asked, multiple players said they feel confident about their improvement in their league-worst third and fourth down defensive conversion percentage.