D.J. Hayden Gets Vote Of Confidence From Jack Del Rio

Reggie McKenzie has been looking for answers at cornerback since his first day as general manager in Oakland. After whiffing on free agent veterans in his first three seasons, he went a different route this offseason and doubled down on his youthful, “home-grown” corners.

As you might expect from ten players with a combined 21 starts (Hayden 10, Carrie 4, Dockery 2, Dowling 2, Chekwa 2, McGill 1), the first week of training camp for the cornerbacks hasn’t been great. They’ve certainly been the target of more bad reviews than good. In fact, Raiders.com (the team’s official media department) even calls the cornerback position a “work in progress.”

But the story getting the most attention is former 12th overall pick, D.J. Hayden. The third-year cornerback has been inconsistent and has dropped behind Keith McGill on the unofficial depth chart – McGill has been getting the majority of the first-team reps.

Despite the rough start, expectations are still high for Hayden and the secondary. McKenzie says he prefers his talent at cornerback this year compared to previous years and his head coach seems even more optimistic – particularly regarding Hayden. “I think he’s had a great start to camp,” Del Rio told reporters yesterday. “He’s been on point. He’s really learning the techniques. He’s come out here and competed, focused really well. I’m really, really pleased with the way he’s working.”

If there’s good news for Hayden, it’s that he’s finally healthy. If he’s going to make the leap, nothing is holding him back but opportunity. As Charles Woodson tells the young players, the key to success is to “work hard, make plays.” By all accounts, Hayden is working hard. Now is the time for him to start making plays.