Raiders notes: Hayden gets INT, provides ‘sticky coverage'


SAN DIEGO – Raiders cornerback DJ Hayden takes some heat. That’s part of being a first-round pick, with each game played under a spotlight and progress charted by everyone with a hope for the future or a No. 25 jersey in the closet.

His road through the NFL hasn’t been smooth, beset by injuries at every turn until this season. This healthy stretch brought big praise from defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., who said he’s growing into one of the league’s best cornerbacks.

He isn’t there yet, but Sunday’s performance was a step in the right direction. The No. 12 overall pick in 2013 had 10 tackles, one for a loss, an interception, a forced fumble and a pass defensed in a 37-29 victory over the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium.

That high tackle total generally means you’re targeted often, but Hayden was solid against the run and aggressive in pass defense.

[BAIR: Raiders' road win over Chargers 'felt like a home game']

“He played with sticky coverage out there,” safety Charles Woodson said. “He made a big play early on with the interception, and was solid throughout. DJ takes a lot of criticism. You read it a lot about him, but I think he just lets it roll off his back because he comes out and plays hard every week no matter what anybody says.”

Hayden’s interception was the Raiders second, snagged from a Philip Rivers pass slightly wider than intended. Hayden got it deep in Chargers territory, and the Raiders got a field goal from the effort and 10 points in total off turnovers.

Hayden was part of a strong Raiders pass defense over the first three quarters, a period when the Silver and Black believed they were operating near max capacity.

“I feel like we can be the best defense in the league,” Hayden said. “We just have to go out and do what we do. We didn’t finish as well as we wanted to, but we played well and we won the game. That’s really what matters.”

Walford comes up big: Rookie tight end Clive Walford made a big play for the second straight game, this time on a 23-yard touchdown pass streaking down the right sideline.

Quarterback Derek Carr threw a perfect volley Walford’s way, and the rookie third-round pick showed why the Raiders believe he’s on the verge of a breakout performance.

“I was so excited and thrilled,” Walford said, describing his first NFL touchdown. “He snapped the ball and I saw the way the defender played it. I felt like he was going to come at me, so I ran my route, cut back and saw the ball coming. I knew I had to make a play on it.”

Walford wants the opportunity to make more plays while sharing time with Lee Smith and Mychal Rivera. He is rising up the priority list after being low in training camp due to injury issues.

“It’s still a work in progress,” Walford said. “I’m trying to take it day by day. When my number is called I have to make a play so they can have that much more confidence in me.”

Injury update: A knee injury to rookie linebacker Neiron Ball was the only physical ailment reported by the Raiders. Ball said he was fine, and left the visiting locker room without ice or crutches, but head coach Jack Del Rio said the fifth-round pick will be evaluated with further testing back in the East Bay.

Murray efficient: Starting running back Latavius Murray didn’t get a ton of carries in Sunday’s win, but made the most of what he got. Murray had 85 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, with a 5.7-yard average that coaches will like.

"The guys were moving people up front, getting hats on people and clearing a path to the second level,” Murray said. “It starts there. They did a really good job.”


-- Linebacker Malcolm Smith had his best day as a Raider, with 11 tackles, a sack, an interception and two passes defensed.

-- Quarterback Derek Carr quietly had an excellent day, with 289 passing yards, three touchdowns and a 137.7 passer rating. His 77.4 completion percentage is fifth best in a Raiders road game.

-- Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree became the first Raiders to have more than 30 receptions in the first six games.


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