So Far, Hayden Having an Up-and-Down Camp

Raiders young cornerback having good days and bad in competition for starting job as he heads into first exhibition game

This is an important training camp for cornerback DJ Hayden, with the chance to earn a starting spot on a revamped Raiders defense.

So far, the reviews have been mixed.

TJ Carrie appears a likely starter on one side, with Hayden and Keith McGill the contenders on the other side.

On some days – and some plays – Hayden reportedly looks like the first-round pick he was in 2013, showing good instincts, speed and technique. On others, he seems out of step.

Wednesday apparently was one of those out-of-step days. According to Levi Damien of SB Nation, a practice observer in Napa, Hayden was beaten consistently by rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper in drills throughout the day. Wrote Damien: “Amari made catch after catch on Hayden.”

Yet Hayden is going full-speed ahead this summer after a full offseason of work and solid play over the second half of the 2014 schedule. Healthy in training camp for the first time with the Raiders, he’s hoping this is his breakthrough season to make an impact.

“My mindset this year, I am just going full force,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Vic Tafur this week. “Whether I make a mistake or not, I am going to do it full speed. Last year, I was hesitant about making mistakes. This year, I don’t give a damn.”

The competition with McGill is an interesting one. In his second season, McGill is a big, physical corner at 6-foot-3; Hayden is 5-foot-11. They are in competition over the next month to earn the second cornerback job, and their performance in exhibitions – beginning Friday night against the Rams – will be important. The Rams come into Coliseum with a new quarterback, Nick Foles, and some dangerous receivers. Both Hayden and McGill will be on the spot.

If Hayden loses out to McGill in the competition, he’ll likely be the nickel corner. In fact, with his size and skills, he might even be more suited for that role.

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