There has been a lot of talk about the Raiders first round selection D.J. Hayden not living up to expectations. He started off slow but then had put a couple of good games together. Unfortunately his performance against the Eagles was about as bad of a game as you can have so those murmurs of dismay are likely to become much louder.
Dennis Allen is not about to throw his young corner under the bus after his poor performance though. He touched on D.J.'s performance today in his press conference and defended his young player's poor play.
"Well on the longest play to Desean Jackson it was a situation where we were in a Quarters coverage and they had a nice route that ended up eating up the safety which its going to do. DJ was in one on one position and he had a chance to make a play on the ball but he just wasn't able to make the play. And then on the deep ball down the middle of the field on the 63 yard touchdown, yeah we should have had a safety in the middle of the field to help out on that one."
As for the first TD that D.J. gave up, it might not have all been on Hayden for that one. Hayden was running stride for stride with Riley Cooper when all of a sudden he bumped out and got out of position. From where Dennis Allen was standing it looked like there may have been a little help from Riley in making D.J. get out of position, though he still knows that Hayden could have made a play there.
"I thought it could have been pass interference just from where I was looking but obviously that wasn't the call on the field. You know we just gotta be able to make that play."
It is important to keep in perspective just how young Hayden is and where he is in developing into an NFL corner. There is no denying that D.J. Played a bad game in this one but still he was in positions to make plays and just needs to be confident enough to make them. Nobody is going to go easy on you in the NFL, that is was happens in this league where everything happens so much faster.
"It's part of the national football league, it happens. You know there hasn't been a corner that has ever played the game that has never had one of those games. The great ones are able to respond to it and come back from it. We got a lot of confidence in D.J., there is a reason we took him where we did. He has got a bright future in this league, he is just learning on the job. That is part of what happens when you play out there on the Audubon."
It isn't just Dennis Allen who feels like Hayden has the capability to play in this league. Charles Woodson also noticed that D.J. Was in position to make plays and he just has to learn how to make it happen. The Raiders are not about to have a pity party for Hayden, they are just going to use this as teaching moment for the young player.
"He had a tough day, but I mean, everybody’s gone through it." Charles said in the angry aftermath of the performance Sunday, "If you’ve played in the NFL, you’ve had a long day before. But if you want to play a long time, then you’ve got to get past it. D.J. is the 12th pick in the draft. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for him. And one thing about it is he was in position. He was in position to make plays. Those are plays he’s going to have to make going forward. I know he’ll replay those plays in his mind every second of the day going forward and he’ll figure out what he needs to do to make those plays. He was right there step for step and he fell one time, the other time I don’t think he located the ball quick enough on the first one. I think he settle down and Riley Cooper was in the end zone and caught the touchdown, but he was in position in every play. From here on, he’ll just have to make a play."
Many people have noticed that Hayden has been in position to make plays but he just isn't turning his head to see the ball coming. This is a worrisome trait but it would be more worrisome if he has always struggled with this problem. According to DA this is a new problem that he is having and that turning his head is actually something that he excelled at on the collegiate level so it is something that hopefully he will get back to doing.
"Something he has done (turn his head to make a play on the ball). It's something when you go back and watch all the tapes from college, it's something that he was exceptional at and that was something we really liked about him. I think when you get down to it it's really a matter of confidence, just believing that you are in great position and just go ahead and turn your head around and go make a play on the football. And that is something that will be gained with his experience."
Now if you're thinking this is all stuff that Dennis Allen has come up with since yesterday to calm the storm brewing around his first round selection, he was already standing up for D.J. yesterday. After the game he touched on Hayden's performance briefly and was already saying similar things.
"Yeah, he had a tough day." Dennis said after the game, "He had a tough day. And DJ wasn’t the only one that had a tough day. Obviously, when you play out there on the island and you have a tough day, those things stand out a little bit more. But he’s a young player. He’s gonna continue to work, he’s gonna continue to get better, and we still got confidence that he can go out and do the job."
There are only so many times where the excuse of being young is going to work. Hayden is halfway through his rookie season and needs to start executing better. The fact that his coach and his teammates are still on his side is a good thing, but they wouldn't exactly be coming out and saying anything differently if they were losing faith in him. We will see how he continues to develop over the rest of the season and hopefully we will start to see some improvements from D.J.
The rookie season for a defensive back is always a tough one though so we should keep his struggles in perspective. The game is a lot faster and a lot more complicated, plus you are going up against the best of the best. So far the punches have not gone in D.J.'s favor but we will see if he can roll with them anyway. It isn't about never falling down that makes the greatest players, it is how they respond to it that makes them great. We now will get a glimpse at how Hayden will react after falling down hard when he plays next week against the New York Giants.