Raiders Defense Won't Change Without First-Round Pick D.J. Hayden

Michael WagamanContributor INovember 8, 2013

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Cornerback DJ Hayden #25 of the Oakland Raiders manages to tackle wide receiver Cecil Shorts III #84 of the Jacksonville Jaguars while seated in the second quarter on September 15, 2013 at Coliseum in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Tracy Porter has been the Oakland Raiders’ most consistently productive defensive back while playing primarily in the slot this season. That’s why coach Dennis Allen declined to shuffle Porter to the outside in nickel and dime situations this week, even though rookie cornerback D.J. Hayden has been sidelined with a groin injury.

One of the team’s top offseason additions, Porter will continue to work at right cornerback in the base defense for the Raiders’ Week 10 matchup against the New York Giants. However, as has been the case all season, Porter will also slide inside, where he’ll square off against Giants slot receiver Victor Cruz whenever Oakland goes to its nickel and dime packages.

That is quickly shaping up to be the marquee matchup of this game and could go a long way in determining who wins. Cruz remains the best downfield threat that Giants quarterback Eli Manning has and has been the one steady presence on the offense for New York.

That, along with Porter’s savvy and experience, is what convinced Allen to stick with Porter as the slot cornerback.

Per, Allen said:

He’s a really smart player and a really instinctive player. That’s what you have to be to play inside the slot because things happen a lot faster inside than they do out on the edge. It’s not always just about your ability. A lot of it has to do with your mental ability.

Porter is the top-ranked cornerback when it comes to defending the run, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). His ability to read plays, come off blocks and chase down the ball-carrier have been a big factor in the overall improvement of Oakland’s run defense, which was the primary focus of Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie in the offeason.

Porter’s production against the pass hasn’t been as sharp, though it’s still far more effective than anyone else. He has allowed two touchdowns this year and has had two games in which he’s graded out poorly, Week 4 against Washington and Week 9 against Philadelphia.

No one in the Raiders secondary could hold their heads too high after allowing Nick Foles to tie an NFL record with seven touchdown passes.

Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, echoing comments made by Allen earlier in the week, said he was pleased with the game plan going into the Eagles game. It just came down to execution.

“It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it,” Tarver said, via

Hayden, who gave up two touchdowns and a long pass in the Week 9 loss to Philadelphia, isn’t likely to do much of anything this weekend. Although he hasn’t been declared out, it’s looking increasingly less likely that he’ll play because of a groin injury he first suffered toward the end of practice on Wednesday.

“We’ll evaluate him and see how he’s doing and see how quickly that thing responds,” Allen said.

The only change the Raiders will make in the secondary is that Phillip Adams will get the nod at right cornerback if Hayden is unable to go.

Not even that will disrupt what Oakland is trying to do defensively. Hayden has been a frequent target of opposing quarterbacks, and Adams will be in the same boat against Eli Manning and the Giants.