A Case of Mistaken Identity?

jeremy barilCorrespondent IAugust 12, 2009

OAKLAND, CA - 2009:  Darrius Heyward-Bey of the Oakland Raiders poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in Oakland, California.  (Photo by NFL Photos)

Darrius Heyward-Bey (DHB) was drafted number 7 overall in the recent NFL draft. He was the first wide receiver taken, but if you looked at anyone's draft board DHB was ranked 3rd or lower for the most part. 

Unless everything comes together this year for DHB, he's not expected by anyone in the organization to put up big receiving numbers this year. 

Articles have come out recently talking about how he's dropping balls left and right in practice, but at the same time there haven't been many articles discussing the fact he'll go practices catching 14 out of 16 balls. 

The case of mistaken identity lies in the fact of how he's going to be used in this offense. Every analyst out there has the typical Al Davis speedy wide receiver copy & paste article ready for the next fast receiver drafted by the Raiders. They think because he's fast he's just going to run in a straight line and be a bust because he won't know or learn how to run NFL routes or be able to catch the ball. He just another track guy trying to play football they say. 

What nearly every analyst has failed to account for is DHB's work ethic. It was well known at Maryland and for the past couple of weeks has been on display in Oakland. He works hard and studies harder. In practice his routes are already rock solid for a young rookie. These will only improve as the season wears on. 

They say the Raiders should've drafted Michael Crabtree or Jeremy Maclin. It's obvious as to why Michael Crabtree wasn't drafted based off his recent hold out and Jeremy Maclin was a duplicate of Johnnie Lee Higgins, just more raw. In fact in Philadelphia they are saying Jeremy Maclin is very, very raw.

The media doesn't understand that Chaz Schilens is the Raiders go to wide receiver at this point unless Javon Walker is the Comeback Player of the Year. Either of those two receivers realistically will be the go-to receivers this team has been missing for the past several years. 

This year DHB is going to be more of a decoy then an actual toy. He'll get his chances every game, but for the most part he'll force coverage away from other receivers thus opening up the middle of the field for Zach Miller and whatever RB is being used in the passing game. Every receiver other than DHB will enjoy one-on-one coverage when he's on the field. 

In practice his ability to blow past the line of scrimmage has forced the defense to adjust coverage to his side so as not to allow DHB single-coverage on a DB. The Raiders have always had one of the fastest secondaries and if he's doing it do the Raiders' secondary then he'll have no problem striking fear in other defenses. 

In time when his route running gets better and his hands are better he'll become more of a focal point of the offense. But as long as he has no problems getting off of the line of scrimmage then defenses have to account for his speed and big play abilities. 

Definitely a case of mistaken identity in this case. DHB isn't going to be the next Marvin Harrison, Jerry Rice, or Tim Brown type receiver. He's going to put a quick six when he catches the ball. He's lighting in a big bottle. 

He was drafted to make everyone's life easier, not to become the focal point of the offense any time soon. He takes coverage away, everyone else reaps the rewards of single coverage. Obviously in time they want him to become a stud wide receiver, but right now it's more important he's on the field taking coverage away. 

I'll finish up with a great quote by DHB recently. This quote really signifies DHB's importance to this offense: 

"I'm still going to come off 110 miles per hour. I'm still going to run past you, I don't care who you are."