Rookie cornerback D.J. Hayden will not play in the first preseason game today against the Dallas Cowboys. He won’t be playing in the second game either.
According to Pro Football Talk, the Raiders’ first round draft pick is expected to make his Raiders debut in the team’s third preseason game, August 23, when the Raiders host the Chicago Bears.
When Hayden was drafted, most believed he was the most talented cornerback in the entire draft, but injury concerns scared some teams off allowing him to fall to the Raiders with the 12th selection. Hayden has been wearing a red no-contact jersey since he has been with the team as he recovers from abdominal surgery after a near fatal heart injury that ended his senior season at the University of Houston.
Because of that injury Hayden has gone a long time without playing football. Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie believes that the mental aspect will be the hardest for Hayden to overcome when he steps back on the field:
He’s going to have to pull the trigger on some things, get the big hit, make plays, he’ll be back to normal mentally. Physically, he’s already there. His weight is right back, his strength, he’s been normal. I’m excited to have him. It’s going to be interesting because people are still going to wonder, how good is he? Let him show some people.
The Raiders have re-vamped their secondary, particularly the cornerback position, and Hayden is expected to be a large part of that. When the Raiders released their first depth chart of the off-season, Hayden was slotted as the third cornerback behind veteran free agent signees Tracy Porter, formerly of the Denver Broncos, and Mike Jenkins, formerly of the Dallas Cowboys.
The Raiders, of course, would love to have Hayden on that first team slot and the sooner he is able to get on the field and show what he can do in real game action, the quicker that can happen.