D.J. Hayden

Winners and losers from Raiders vs. Vikings (preseason game No. 2)

As we all know, it really doesn’t matter much if you win or lose your preseason games, what matters is the evaluation of individual performances in those games. So while the Oakland Raiders lost their second preseason game of the year to the Minnesota Vikings, there were still individual players who walked away from Minnesota as winners. But of course, there were also those who walked away as losers.

Let’s go BAND-AID style and get the bad over with quickly.


D.J. Hayden

The third-year corner was targeted five times, giving up three catches for 35 yards and a touchdown while opposing quarterbacks registered a 120.8 quarterback rating against him. Hayden continued to exhibit the same problems he has shown since day one. While his speed and athleticism allow him to keep close to most receivers, his lack of football IQ and instinct prevent him from making many plays.

If Hayden was a bit bigger, he would make a very good safety. When facing the quarterback in zone, he plays much better. He can read the quarterback and use his athleticism to make a play. If you’ve noticed, almost all of his interceptions have come this way. But when being forced to turn his back to the ball while playing man coverage, Hayden struggles.

The touchdown that Hayden gave up was on a perfectly thrown pass by Teddy Bridgewater. Even if Hayden played it perfectly, there’s a good chance it was a touchdown. Except he didn’t play it perfectly. He was on his man closely, but when the ball arrived, Hayden made no effort whatsoever to disrupt the pass. In fact, he didn’t appear to know the ball was coming until it was already in the hands of the receiver. It was a poor showing for Hayden, which is scary for the Raiders considering how thin they are at cornerback.

Trent Richardson

Richardson wasn’t too bad against the Rams. He didn’t have a great game and still lacked the vision necessary to be a starting back in the NFL, but he showed more burst than we’ve seen from him recently. However, Richardson showed pretty much nothing in Minnesota — five rushes for five yards. Even with his improved burst, Richardson looks slow and lost. At times he isn’t patient enough with his blockers, at other times he is but then misses big opportunities to gain yards.

The Raiders have their starting running back locked up with Latavius Murray, but the backup spot is up for grabs. Richardson was supposed to be a primary contender for that job but after two preseason games, he may be third on the list. Taiwan Jones, a guy who’s been on the Raiders for years but primarily as a special teams player, is in the lead to be the backup. Meanwhile, undrafted rookie free agent Michael Dyer had a much better second game and could overtake Richardson on the depth chart.


Mario Edwards Jr.

After a poor showing in Week 1 of the preseason, many were already looking to write off the second round pick. That’s because when he was drafted, many were unhappy with the selection. The Raiders needed help in the pass rush and Edwards is not a pass rushing specialist. When he got pushed around in week one, many felt that their concerns had been validated. Yet Edwards had a much better showing in Week 2, providing a solid pass rush most of the night. He registered half of a sack along with fellow rookie Ben Heeney on a play that resulted in a forced fumble that was recovered by the Raiders.

During the game, the Raiders announcers noted that Edwards might have been focusing too much on gap discipline in Week 1 — an emphasis of the defense under Ken Norton Jr. — to the detriment of his play. This week, Edwards clearly focused more on penetrating into the backfield in order to be a disruptive player. The result? Edwards’ presence was felt. He still has some learning to do and could afford to add some more pass rushing moves to his tool belt, but if he builds on that performance, the Raiders will likely be pretty happy with what he brings to the table.

Ben Heeney

Ben Heeney was the best defensive player on the field for the Raiders for the second consecutive week. Obviously keep in mind the fact that Heeney played far more snaps than Khalil Mack and the rest of the starters, but he delivered. He led the team in tackles once again and leads the team in sacks through the first two preseason games. The combination of high motor, good vision, high football IQ and ability to get off of blocks makes up for what he is missing in size.

Every now and then, you see a linebacker who looks almost like he’s playing running back. He reads the blocks being given by the defensive line, flows to the hole and bursts through it in order to tackle the running back or get to the quarterback. That’s what you see with Heeney. He flows to the ball with ease and if he isn’t the first person there, he’s almost always one of the first three. The Raiders just signed Curtis Lofton to be the starting middle linebacker so Heeney likely won’t get to start, but he will certainly see his fair share of playing time once the season starts.

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