NFL teams can be like lions, ready to stalk the weakest link in the herd, which means one thing for the Raiders’ game against the New York Giants this Sunday:
D.J. Hayden better be ready.
The rookie cornerback, burned so badly in the 49-20 loss to the Eagles this past weekend, was already the subject of stories in the New York-area media Monday.
Dave Hutchinson of the The Star Ledger in New Jersey wrote that the Raiders’ showed how vulnerable they were to deep passes, and specifically singled out Hayden as a player that New York quarterback Eli Manning might attack.
“The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback has given Eli Manning the blueprint to beat the Oakland Raiders on Sunday,” wrote Hutchinson. “Now it’s up to offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride and Manning to execute it.”
Hayden, who’s had an up-and-down first year in the NFL as the Raiders’ No. 1 draft choice, was covering Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper on consecutive touchdown catches by Cooper in the second quarter. Later, Hayden was on DeSean Jackson when Jackson hauled in a 59-yard pass from quarterback Nick Foles, who threw an NFL-record-tying seven TD passes in the game.
On just those three catches alone, Hayden gave up 139 yards. Going into the game, noted Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com, Hayden had allowed 20 catches on 34 targets for 247 yards.
“He had a tough day,” said Raiders head coach Dennis Allen. “He had a tough day, and D.J. 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. He’s a young player. He’s going to continue to work. He’s going to continue to get better and we still have confidence that he can go out and do the job.”
How he plays Sunday may go a long way to determining what kind of a player he may be in the NFL. But Sunday’s task will be difficult. He’ll be playing against a savvy quarterback who’s won two Super Bowls and has a trio of play-making receivers in Victor Cruz (47 catches, 677 yards, four TDs), Hakeem Nicks (34 catches, 521 yards) and rookie Rueben Randle (23 catches, 373 yards, four TDs).
Raiders veteran safety Charles Woodson, who began his career as a touted, Heisman-winning cornerback, said rookie cornerbacks always experience growing pains. It’s part of the process.
“He had a tough day, but everybody’s gone through it,” Woodson told Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group. “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.”
It wasn’t just Hayden on the hot seat after the Eagles loss, however. Oakland (now 3-5) gave up more than 400 yards passing, and no doubt the Giants and Manning have already watched the film and will try to capitalize on the same things the Eagles saw in the Raiders defense.
Cornerback Terry Porter called the defense’s performance “flat-out embarrassing” and says the unit needs to use the experience as a wake-up call for Sunday’s game against the Giants (2-6).
“From the top guy on the team to the last guy on the roster, we didn’t do our job in preparing this team as well as we could this week, and it showed,” he said.