After finishing the 2014 season on a high note, CB DJ Hayden is looking forward to keeping that positive momentum rolling headed into 2015.
The former Houston Cougar started the final eight games of 2014 for the Silver and Black, solidifying his role in the Raiders secondary, and is hopes to continue his on-field growth in 2015.
"I was just out there playing," said Hayden when talking about 2014. "I just did what I could do to help the defense, but now, it's a whole new defense, a whole new scheme and I'm expecting a lot more good results this year."
During his first two years in the league, Hayden appeared in 18 games, making 10 starts, and is confident that 2015 will mark the first season he is in uniform for all 16 games for the Silver and Black.
"It's frustrating, but it's something that I've had to deal with," he said, talking about his past injuries. "I can't control it, so I just have to go out there and do my thing. I have to play the cards that I'm dealt as well as I can."
And when he's been dealt a healthy hand, he's performed well.
"I can't control it, so I just have to go out there and do my thing. I have to play the cards that I'm dealt as well as I can."
During his 10 games last season, he recorded 45 total tackles (37 solo), and was tied for the team lead with 16 passes defensed, according to coaches' statistics.
As the team begins Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and starts preparing for the 2015 campaign, Hayden is eager to get back to work and learn the new defensive scheme installed by defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr.
"It's really not that complicated, and any defense for the corners is pretty much simple," Hayden said. "You're working on your technique, working on finishing, and working on lots of stuff."
His natural ability and hard work have also caught the eye of Head Coach Jack Del Rio.
"You see his feet and he's [Hayden] got really good feet," Coach Del Rio said after the team's first OTA. "He's super quick. Coming in, I think thus far we, as a staff, have talked about how this group has been eager and working hard. That's good. It's a good place to start. Now it's a matter of sustaining that kind of effort. It's a matter of building the mentality that we want and things like that. I like the way DJ has approached his work thus far."
"You see his feet and he's [Hayden] got really good feet," Coach Del Rio said.
During the offseason, General Manager Reggie McKenzie did not bring in a veteran cornerback, instead selecting Dexter McDonald in the 7th round (No. 242 overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft, and putting his faith in the young cornerback corps already in Oakland.
"It's a sign that they believe in us," Hayden stated. "They believe in the young guys to come over and help this team win. I feel like me, TJ [Carrie], Neiko [Thorpe], Keith [McGill], we are all going to do the thing this year and help this secondary be one of the top ones in the National Football League."
He also doesn't feel any added pressure knowing that expectations have grown as he enters his third year in the league.
"I don't think of it as more [pressure]," Hayden said. "I just think of it as… if I wasn't hurt last year I'd probably already be in this position. I'm in this position now and I'm ready for it."
Head Coach Jack Del Rio and his staff have instilled a renewed sense of competitiveness for the Silver and Black and their win now mentality has been adopted by the players.
"Why rebuild? Let's just win. Let's just go out there and do it.
Hayden and the rest of his teammates know that there are no excuses, and the time to win is upon them.
"We have to win now," Hayden said. "Why rebuild? Let's just win. Let's just go out there and do it. Why try to work your way up to winning? Just win now. We play the game to win, so let's win."