Oakland Raiders: 5 Players To Watch In First Preseason Game

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Sep 23, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Oakland Raiders cornerback DJ Hayden (25) after the game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 37-21. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

D.J. Hayden

To put it bluntly, this is Hayden’s time to step up or find another line of work. Or at least, another team to be mediocre on. To this point, Hayden is going down as one of Reggie McKenzie’s worst draft picks – and the fact that he used the twelfth overall pick in 2013 on Hayden is nothing but rubbing salt in the wounds, considering who else was still available.

Hayden has shown tremendous flashes of how good he can be. He’s also shown incredibly frustrating inconsistency. He’s further shown that he can not yet stay healthy enough to be depended upon for a full season – through his two full seasons in the NFL, Hayden has played in just 18 of a possible 32 games due to injury.

The good news is, he’s made it to this point in camp without sustaining an injury – an improvement over his first two seasons. Now he just needs to be more consistent, better in coverage, and learn to become the cornerback McKenzie thought he was getting when he drafted Hayden.

The fact that Hayden is being pushed for a starting spot by second year corners Travis Carrie (taken in the seventh round last year) and Keith McGill (taken in the fourth round last year) is a testament to how far from grace he’s fallen within the organization. That McGill was taking a good portion of the first team reps while Hayden practiced with the twos early on in camp speaks further to that fall.

The good news for him though, is that McKenzie has put all of his faith into his young corners, letting veterans walk and not signing any free agents to fill those spaces. And Del Rio has declared that it is an open competition between the three – Hayden, McGill, and Carrie – for the two starting spots.

But the time has come for Hayden to prove, once and for all, that McKenzie was right to take him. He may see a little extended time on the field tonight as the coaches have to closely evaluate what they have, given the concerns about Oakland’s secondary. It would behoove Hayden to make the most of the opportunities he has.

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