Oakland Raiders: Notes And Observations From Week Seven

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Oct 25, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders cornerback D.J. Hayden (25) is congratulated after an interception during the second quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Has Hayden Finally Arrived?

To say that former first round pick D.J. Hayden has been a disappointing, underwhelming player since his arrival in 2013 would be a disservice to disappointing, underwhelming players everywhere.

Two injury plagued seasons limited him to a handful of games and in the games he was on the field, he was woefully ineffective. Finally healthy this year, Hayden was expected to step up and lock down his side of the field. With second year man Travis Carrie on the other side, Oakland’s secondary was supposed to be better in 2015 than it had been in some time.

That was the plan anyway. So far this season, Oakland’s corners have been more of a liability than anything. Carrie has played very well, but he seems to be the anomaly in the group – until David Amerson arrived who has played well – allowing Ken Norton to shift Carrie to safety to cover for an injured Nate Allen and a painfully thin safety group.

So far this season, Hayden has been getting eaten up in a big way. He’s surrendered big play after big play, touchdown after touchdown. Pro Football Focus had him graded as the second worst cover corner in the league – a dubious distinction he shared with San Diego’s Brandon Flowers.

Hayden has been getting savaged by Raider fans who are frustrated with his poor and inconsistent play. And rightfully so. Though he’s showed flashes here and there, Hayden had not contributed in a significant way to Oakland’s defense.

But against the Chargers, Hayden showed up big time. Until Norton put the handcuffs and straight jacket on his defense, Hayden had been playing an outstanding game and provided outstanding coverage. For the game Hayden recorded ten tackles, one of those for a loss – second most on the team behind Malcolm Smith – a pass defensed, a forced fumble, and a big interception of Rivers.

Against the Chargers, Hayden had arguably, his best performance as a pro.

We will need to see more consistency and more efforts like that before we can stop worrying about him of course, but the game in San Diego certainly seemed like Hayden may have finally started to turn a corner. He doesn’t need to be a shutdown corner. He doesn’t need to be Richard Sherman or Darrelle Revis. He just needs to be consistent and he needs to make smart, good football plays.

If he can string together more efforts like the one he posted against the Chargers, we very well may be saying that Hayden has finally arrived.

Next: Ground And Pound