The Raiders' secondary had their share of growing pains last season.
The unit of Damon Arnette, Trayvon Mullen Jr. and Johnathan Abram was an average of 22.67 years old last season. The Raiders defense allowed the seventh-most pass yards and tied for the fourth-least amount of interceptions in the league last season. In the offseason, the promising young secondary was given a veteran missing piece that should beneficial in Casey Hayward Jr..
Hayward's resume speaks for itself. The two-time All-Pro cornerback is going into his 10th NFL season, and his fifth under defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. Both Bradley and Hayward have reunited in the desert from the division-rival Chargers, trying to replicate the success they had in L.A.
Head Coach Jon Gruden on Thursday gave three reasons why signing Hayward was a necessity:
- "He's a polished pro, number one."
- "He's experienced in this system, number two.
- "Got a lot of history with the coaching staff, number three."
Hayward has not only served as a mentor to the young players, he's performing very well throughout Training Camp.
"I think overall since OTAs, everybody has been doing a really good job of trying to learn," Hayward said. "And I think most people – [like] myself – I learn off reps. Getting the guys the reps and the walkthroughs in practice, I feel like guys are picking it up and guys are learning."
Someone who has been learning a lot with more reps is cornerback Damon Arnette. Arnette is poised for an improved sophomore season after missing a large portion of last season with various injuries. The former Buckeye has been able to properly rehab and bulk up this offseason, putting him in a place to succeed.
"The most I weighed last year was 175," said Arnette. "I ain't have no problem playing physical, it was just my body couldn't take it.
"Last year my mentality was tested in a lot of areas of my life. ... I didn't do a good job with handling them. But the support of the coaches, my teammates, my family – if it weren't were for them, I wouldn't have been able to get through things I was dealing with. And once I started learning to lean on my support – all the people that are really there for you – that's when I started to see growth. And not just on the football field, but in my life."
Hayward is pleased with what he's seen from Arnette and is not worried about his lack of production from last year. He expects the 2020 first-round pick to be great moving forward.
"I think he's done very well," said Hayward. "I wasn't here last year, so I can only tell you what I see now. ... He's one of those guys that's got all the tools to be really good, and I think he's been flashing those tools in camp. And I hope he continues to do that, because we're going to need him.
"When he comes, he just tries to be like a sponge. He tries to learn everything so anything he asks me I try to tell him or if I see anything I try to tell him, and vice versa. I'm not one of those guys that just say, 'I think I know everything.' So there's been some times he'll be like, 'Hey this is what I've seen'. Obviously I'm like, 'Oh I appreciate it' and I try to learn from it and vice versa."
Arnette described No. 29 as "a great teacher"
"He's a really good dude, funny dude. He cares about the team and the group," said Arnette. "Something that didn't stand out last year was that one leader role, that big brother role. That vet energy in the room is just taking a turn on everybody. Everybody looks up to him, everybody's taking his advice.
"And it just seems like he was that piece that I wish we did have last year, but I'm more happy we got him this year."
The Silver and Black return to Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center as they prepare for their preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks.