Oakland Raiders: 5 Players To Watch Against The Cardinals

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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

D.J. Hayden

The saga of cornerback D.J. Hayden has been one of frustration and is quickly becoming a cautionary tale – not to mention a huge blemish on McKenzie’s record. Despite his considerable medical issues, McKenzie drafted him anyway, burning a first round pick on a guy who has yet to live up to his billing as a shutdown corner.

He’s struggled with his health his first two seasons in the league. Hayden just hasn’t been able to stay on the field, playing in just 18 of 32 games. This year, he’s healthy for the first time in his career – and he’s never been worse.

Hayden spent his time on the field last week against Minnesota getting picked on by Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and getting abused by receiver Charles Johnson. Hayden looked absolutely wretched against Minnesota a week after getting torched by the Rams for a big gainer.

Coming into this offseason, the Raiders had pinned a lot of their hopes on a healthy Hayden being able to perform at a high level. He certainly has talent, and every once in a while, you can see him flash that ability with a fantastic play. But those plays are becoming fewer and further between and his inconsistency and the fact that he can be – and is – regularly burned deep becomes more prevalent.

This is a make or break year for Hayden. The Raiders have been patient, but now that Del Rio is in charge, that patience has its limits. If he does not step up and prove that he can be an NFL corner, and that he can contribute to the success of the defense, Hayden might not be in the starting line up at all come opening day. He might not even be in a Raider uniform.

Del Rio has made it clear that only those who perform will be playing with the team this season. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that Hayden, if he continues to be more liability than asset, will find a pink slip in his locker by this weekend.

Next: 5 Things To Look For In Preseason Game #3