It’s early in the season, but Las Vegas Raiders cornerback Casey Hayward is proving to be the steal of this past NFL free agency period. The Silver and Black are getting their money’s worth.
The Raiders secondary for the last few years has left much to be desired. The last member of that unit to make the Pro Bowl was Reggie Nelson in 2016. As you can see, that was six years ago, and it probably feels longer for Raider Nation. There is hope in third-year player Trayvon Mullen, but he’s had moments where his youth has showed.
Looking at 2020 for Hayward, it was a down year. He registered one interception and gave up 36 receptions, looking like he was slowing down. He was released, and many thought he could follow his former defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to Las Vegas, and he did. Last season Hayward ended with a 59.5 Pro Football Focus grade, but this season, he is at 82.8.
Signing Hayward has been proven to be genius…
This past offseason, even with first-round pick Damon Arnette on the roster, the Raiders went after veteran and former 2nd Team All-Pro Casey Hayward. Originally, many believed Hayward would be the third corner or possibly play the nicker. However, he showed up at camp and impressed everyone. In the process, he earned a starting position.
Hayward has shown that the signing was well worth it through the first three weeks. Hayward, according to PFF, has only given up three completions on nine targets. However, one of those completions turned out to be a safety. In that play, Hayward made a great tackle on Miami Dolphins wideout Jaylen Waddle in the endzone. He also has eight total tackles and two passes defensed.
Hayward is the Raiders’ top corner…
In each game, his impact has been seen and felt. In Week 2 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he knocked out a possible touchdown pass to receiver Chase Claypool as they both went up and Hayward knocked the ball out. A little later, with Hayward cramping up, Arnette came in and was immediately targeted and gave up a 50-yard completion. Such a drop-off in coverage without Hayward shows how valuable he’s already become. His maturity and veteran leadership have also been key with such a young secondary, the difference with this unit from last year is night and day.
Rejuvenated and with his former team next on the docket for Monday Night Football, Hayward may be looking to make a big statement on the national stage. The Raiders have a history of picking up players who appear to be on the way out, and at times, it has worked in their favor. With how Hayward has responded this season, it shows it could once again work. Going into the matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers, Hayward may be thinking just one thing, “Just Win, Baby!”
*Top Photo: Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun