While the Oakland Raiders’ offense has proven to be a premiere one, the defense is still a work in progress. Upon consistently ranking as the worst defense in the NFL, Jack Del Rio’s unit has stepped tremendously in the past few weeks. Each week has seen a climb in the rankings, while the playmakers have been able to get key stops and turnovers to close games out.
However, it appears as though they will play without a starter for the rest of the season. On Friday, the team was informed that cornerback D.J. Hayden was going to be placed on the season-ending IR with a hamstring injury.
Hayden has appeared in all 11 games this season, while receiving two starts. In those 11 games played, he had racked up 32 tackles (27 solo), six passes defended and a forced fumble.
Hayden did face some problems when playing in the secondary, as he has been consistently flagged for holding and pass interference calls. However, that never stopped the fourth-year player from giving it his all.
According to Jimmy Durkin of the Bay Area News Group, the hamstring injury appeared to be more severe than expected:
Del Rio says DJ Hayden is heading to IR. Pretty significant hamstring injury there.
— Jimmy Durkin (@Jimmy_Durkin) December 2, 2016
With Hayden out for the rest of the season, it seems as though T.J. Carrie, Antonio Hamilton or Dexter McDonald will receive the starting position. Unless the Raiders were to sign someone externally, it seems as though Carrie and Hamilton may transition into that slot role.
Moving onward, Sean Smith and David Amerson continue to hold the opponent’s top two receivers, while Hayden was placed in altering situations. With Reggie Nelson, Karl Joseph and Nate Allen holding down the safety positions, Del Rio will have some alterations to make.
The corresponding move on the roster has yet to be made, as the Raiders now have an open roster spot available. When Hayden was injured in a previous game, Del Rio elected to put Hamilton into his role, but Carrie may receive the bulk of the playing time.
Hayden is slated to become a free agent at the end of the season, meaning his tenure as a Raider may very well be over with.