Even before Casey Hayward Jr. showed up at team facilities in Henderson, Nevada after signing in May, his new Las Vegas Raiders teammates reached out almost immediately. Incumbent cornerback Trayvon Mullen Jr. hit his cellphone to text the newly signed veteran CB.
Some sixth months later, the 32-year-old Hayward is not only reinforcing why his younger Raider defensive backfield mates reached out to him, but exactly why the Silver & Black brought him in to be the elder statesman of the cornerback room.
The 10-year veteran has yet to yield a touchdown in coverage, PFF tracks him at 417 snaps without allowing a score.
Most coverage snaps without a TD allowed (amongst CBs):— PFF Bet (@PFF_Bet) December 2, 2021
Casey Hayward Jr. - 417 snaps
Nate Hobbs - 385 snaps pic.twitter.com/sCsVfqURtC
Opponents haven’t had much success targeting Hayward as he’s allowed a stingy completion rate of 52.9% (18 of 34 targets allowed), according to Pro Football Reference. Quarterbacks throwing Hayward’s way sport a collective 74.8 passer rating in what’s been a 2021 return to form for the 5-foot-11, 192-pound corner.
It’s easy to see why the Los Angeles Chargers released Hayward after a 2020 campaign that saw the corner get charged with five touchdown passes allowed and 631 passing yards (487 yards were charted as air yards — the distance the ball traveled from quarterback to receiver) along with 144 yards of YAC (yard after catch). Whispers of Hayward lost a step grew louder and louder until it culminated in his release in L.A.
“I didn’t even know they said that,” Hayward said with a laugh earlier this season. “I didn’t know they said that but, you know, for the media, I don’t care what they say. Good or bad, I just watch the film with our coaches and they’re going to tell me if I played good or not. So, it don’t matter if they say I’m washed or not. My goal is just to try to go out there and compete, each and every week.
“And I think they brought me here to have a veteran presence and try to lead these guys. That’s what I’m trying to do. It’s not going to be perfect. I’m not going to make every play. People are going to catch the ball. I just got lucky the first two games that nobody caught the ball. Each and every week the goal is to win.”
Las Vegas, however, in need of a veteran presence at the position and with ex-Chargers defensive coordinator (Gus Bradley) and secondary boss (Ron Milus) now Raiders, Hayward soon switched to the Silver & Black. And it’s paid off handsomely.
“What he is, is a true pro and he’s someone they can bounce stuff off of,” Milus said of Hayward, who had the vet CB with the Chargers from 2016 through 2020. “Plus, he leads by example. Now, it’s not always an example; he’ll tell them, ‘Hey, that’s not quite how we do it.’ But Casey is a pro and I think that’s what he brings to the table. The young guys have a chance to look at a guy ... that [has] done it before, and this is how you get it done.”
Hayward has allowed 233 yards (186 air yards, 47 YAC) and has been a stalwart outside corner for a team that’s lost one starter — Mullen — to injury and saw a 2020 starter get released (Damon Arnette).
Sunday’s matchup with the Washington Football Team is another outing for Hayward to further cement his status as shadow corner, especially if he’s charged with covering Terry McLaurin. “Scary Terry” is an excellent blend of speed, precision and toughness and has four 100-yard games under his belt with a total tally of 786 yards, 5 TDs on 58 catches. The Ohio State product will be quite the test for Hayward or any other Raiders CB tasked with covering McLaurin.
The Raiders coaching staff got to see McLaurin up close and personal when the team coached in the 2019 Senior Bowl.
“We all fell in love with him,” Bisaccia said after practice on Wednesday. “His attitude, his effort, his ability to make big plays. He was a great special teams player coming out.”
Bisaccia gets to see Scary Terry again this Sunday and he’s surely banking on Hayward continuing his strong play if he’s lined up across from McLaurin.