Raiders hope DJ Hayden the sequel is much better than the original

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I, like many, wasn’t even exactly sure who DJ Hayden was going into the 2013 NFL Draft. I mean, I do follow the draft, but honestly all I’d heard about Hayden was about the injury he sustained during practice that very nearly killed him. He was selected 12th overall in the draft despite having not taken a snap in the second half of his senior year. He had started the first nine games before sustaining a torn inferior vena cava during passing drills where he collided with a safety. The safety’s knee struck Hayden in the chest and resulted in an injury that is most commonly seen in high speed vehicle accidents.

This sort of injury carries with it a 95% fatality rate due to the massive loss of blood. Hayden described the moments after the accident saying that things went pitch black in his left eye and that he just felt suddenly cold and sleepy. Even after this accident, Hayden was still afforded first team All-Conference USA honors. And though he hadn’t been able to prove himself in the last half of his senior year, the Raiders thought highly enough of him to spend their first round draft pick on him.

Such was the lot that the Raiders had leading up to the 2013 season. As Raider Nation knows, cap space was a huge problem and general manager Reggie McKenzie had to hustle in order to fill the roster. That meant a lot of young, unproven players. The flip side of these young and unproven players is that they came into the season with something to prove, which is the crux of what turns a player into an Oakland Raider. This presented Raider Nation with the grand debate of whether or not it is a dearth of talent or coaching that has gotten the Raiders to yet another losing season. A lot of things went wrong for the Raiders this season, one of which being the fact that they were plagued by injuries including Hayden who missed a massive amount of time.

Before Hayden was injured he logged 26 tackles and one interception as well as two defended passes. His first NFL interception was against San Diego Chargers’ quarterback Phillip Rivers. Hayden was placed on the injured reserve list after undergoing sports hernia surgery. What was increasingly frustrating about losing him with six games remaining in the season was that he was looked to be coming along well during the season. Slowly, but he was coming along.

His progress was somewhat infuriating at the same time. His game was improving but one could still see that he was a split second behind making the play in most instances. It almost seemed as though he was second guessing himself and that lack of confidence definitely hurt him. He wasn’t finishing plays, but one could see that his timing was coming together and once that confidence falls into place, he’ll be batting balls down and making some serious plays.

This off season will be really vital in the healing process for Hayden. Once he’s healthy and can get out there to continue his progress, I think Raider Nation will be in for a pleasant surprise come the start of the 2014 season. He came so close to being the real deal this season and it was unfortunate that he sustained another injury when he did.

Hopefully, Hayden has all the time he needs to heal from his injury and he’s spending his offseason studying the game and bulking up so he doesn’t get injured again. I think that he’s going to hit the ground running next year as it seems as though he didn’t get to get that chip off his shoulder in the 2013 season so he still has something to prove to his team, to Raider Nation, and to himself. A healthy Hayden on the Raiders defense will definitely be something to look forward to and hopefully will result in more interceptions. Would definitely be exciting to see him pick up his progress right where he left off and just conquer that confidence issue and act rather than hesitate. That hesitation gives the wide receiver the chance to walk away with the ball. It definitely gives Raider Nation a source of optimism to look forward to seeing a healthy Hayden take the field next season.

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  • Anonymous

    Well done..very enjoyable article

    • Amy Contizano

      Thank you, anonymous fan! Appreciate the read! 🙂

  • EB34

    I think Hayden will develop into quite the player.He will be the shutdown corner this team needs.I’m sure of it

    • Amy Contizano

      I think he was coming along well, but he was letting his head get the better of him. If he were reacting and not hesitating, I think he would have made a lot more plays.

  • samiam2112

    He needs another season with Woodson and he will be just fine IMO.

    • Amy Contizano

      Agreed! Learning under CWood definitely benefits him and the team!

  • RP

    There’s no doubt he has talent but he’s damaged goods….and undersized! SMH – why did Reggie need to gamble with that pick!!!! We coulda had a great DLinemen….possibly a DE that woulda helped Lamar H and made the Defense better. But no. And all you optimists need a dose of reality…NONE of Reggie’s draft picks are good, only exception is Sio Moore.

    • Independent Mind

      Exactly. DHB, McClain & Russell were better year 2 technically

  • David Wilson

    Hayden is one player Oakland are really counting on to step up in 2014. I’m betting he does it.

    • Amy Contizano

      Thank you for the read, as always! Can’t wait to see what he has for us next season!! I think he’ll be great! He was getting SO close this past season.

  • David Wilson

    Undersized? He is 5’11” and 190lb+. sMh!

    • Amy Contizano

      That is exactly the same thought that I had, LOL! But it’s cool, I went looking for a dose of reality.

  • NoMoreReggie

    That’s all they can do is “hope”. It’s not like this idiot regime has picked any quality players yet. They’ll just randomly pick guys in the 2014 draft and “hope” they are decent. Meanwhile Allen & the other Stooges go 4-12 again.

    • walter spargo

      Can I borrow your crystal ball? I want to look into the future too! Funny how all you doubters all know so much with so few facts.

      You can’t call this regime a failure while they are in the middle of fixing the mess that was left to them. You people claim to be diehard Raiders fans but all you do is spew anti Raider talk. If all you want to do is dog them out., find another team. You sound more like Chefs, Donkey and Choker fans and you try to justify yourselves by hiding behind terms like “realist”.

      You know nothing about being a true fan or having faith in your team no matter what happens. I have faith and I know they will get this thing turned around so why don’t the rest of you negative nancies try some too and stop dogging MY team!

      • Amy Contizano

        Tell em why you mad, Sparky!

  • Steven Dooley

    Couldn’t have said it better myself Walter spargo. I’m sick of faithless so called raider fans of that only think of us going 4-12 when that was totally expected of the team while purging itself and rebuilding. With a few less bad breaks and injuries they could have been 7-9 or 8-8 and exceeded expectations. I have faith in Reggie McKenzie and coach Allen and believe starting this year we are going to see a vast improvement and be a serious playoff contending team. I’ve been a Raided fan since grade school and remember all three Super Bowl victories in all their glory and the past eleven years hasn’t been easy being a raider fan but guess what….I’m still here and rooting for my team and patiently waiting for the turn around and its coming fast. Reggies nest draft will be this year and last years picks will come around full force also I believe. I love the Raiders and I’m sticking by them thru thick and thin.

    • Walter Spargo

      I wish there were more fans like us. The nay sayers can GTFOH as far as I’m concerned. When they are proven wrong, I will be the first one to say “I told you so!”

  • R8russ

    I love these so called “fans” talking about how horrible Reggie is at recognizing talent… Give D.J. a freaking chance people. Let him have a real off season, throw on 15 lbs or so let him get used to the NFL (cb is in fact the second most difficult position to perfect) then if he sucks bash Reggie all you want. All rookies require a year or two before they become impact players. How many of the 200 some odd drafted rookies made a major impact this year??? The odds are very slim. Just give it a minute, I know 11 years of ineptitude have caused a bit if pessimism but we are climbing out of the whole. Another almost full draft and mucho signing will give a huge step forward, give the new regime more than two seasons to right the ship.