- Paul Gutierrez, ESPN Staff Writer
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That D.J. Hayden played in a professional football game less than a year after nearly dying on a college football practice field is a story in and of itself.
But the Oakland Raiders' top draft pick wants to leave that storyline behind and be judged solely on his performance on the field. So how did the cornerback fare in the Raiders’ 21-17 loss to Indianapolis?
“I thought overall, it was OK,” said Raiders coach Dennis Allen. “I think, when you look at it, he had a couple opportunities to make some plays and he was just off just a little bit. So I think D.J.’s going to be fine.”
Hayden did not start -- he was not expected to -- and mostly saw time coming in as a third cornerback in Oakland’s nickel defense, playing left corner with Tracy Porter sliding into the slot.
Still, while Hayden was credited with three solo tackles, they came on completions he allowed … for a total of 37 yards.
What stung was when they came … all three were third downs the Colts converted.
Perhaps the most glaring completion Hayden surrendered was the first … because it was to former Raiders first-rounder Darrius Heyward-Bey (remember him?), and it was a 16-yard pickup, on third-and-5. And it was the fourth play in the Colts’ eventual 10-play, 89-yard scoring drive to open the game.
The second completion came on third-and-8 in the fourth quarter, when Hayden gave up a 12-yard completion to T.Y. Hilton.
Later in the same series, Hayden was beaten by Reggie Wayne for a nine-yard completion on third-and-2.
The last two completions came during the Colts’ game-winning drive.
“D.J.’s going to have to continue to learn, continue to improve, continue to get better,” Allen added. “For the first time out, not bad. But there’s a couple of plays in there you’d like to see him make.
“As he continues to grow, I think you’ll see him make a few more of those plays.”