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What Will D.J. Hayden Bring to the Jaguars?

Filip Prus

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Sep 18, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Detroit Lions cornerback DJ Hayden (31) breaks up a pass intended for New York Giants wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) in the second half during a NFL football game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Jaguars are making a change at the nickel corner position for the 2018 season, extending a 3-year, $19 million deal with $9.5 million in guarantees to former Raiders and Lions CB D.J. Hayden.

Who is D.J. Hayden?

A former first round pick (12th overall) in the 2013 NFL Draft from the University of Houston, Hayden’s professional career nearly ended before it even started.

As a senior, Hayden was injured in a collision with a teammate causing a tear to his inferior vena cava, a crucial large vein responsible for carrying blood from the lower half of the body to the heart.

The injury is often seen in automobile collisions and statistically has a 95% mortality rate.

The 5’11” 190-pound speed demon was clocked at 4.33 on his 40-yard dash at his Pro Day and has found more success each season in the league. In 2017, Hayden signed a 1-year, $3.75 million “prove it” deal to play as a versatile cornerback in Detroit’s 4-3 defense after years playing as a boundary left cornerback in Oakland.

In Detroit, Hayden essentially alternated series with Nevin Lawson on the boundary opposite Darius Slay and featured as a rotational depth player for the Lions. Quandre Diggs was the team’s starter at nickel and earned a 73.5 PFF grade on 790 snaps from the slot.

As a result, the Jaguars are essentially crossing their fingers and hoping that Hayden’s skill set will project favorably as a feature nickel cornerback in their defense.

Behind The Numbers

In 2017, Hayden allowed a career-best 0 TDs and 76.7 passer rating when targeted on 488 snaps, per Pro Football Focus. Hayden allowed 29 receptions on 50 targets (58.0% catch rate) for only 315 yards with 6 pass deflections and 2 fumble recoveries (1 returned for TD).

One negative about Hayden is that from 2015-2017, Hayden led all defensive backs with 13 defensive pass interference penalties on 162 targets for a shocking 8.02% DPI%.

For reference, the next highest on this list is Delvin Breaux with a 5.98% DPI%. But don’t panic, Jaguars fans. Only 2 of these 13 came with the Lions in 2017, and most of these stemmed from Hayden not having safety help over the top in Oakland and having to do what was needed to prevent a big play.

For the Jaguars fans waving goodbye to the nickel blitz due to Hayden’s limited sack numbers; Hayden was only dispatched on a blitz on 2 of 488 snaps, getting home for a half-sack.

In comparison, Aaron Colvin allowed 45 receptions on 62 targets (72.6% catch rate) for 317 yards on 700 snaps, also not allowing a TD in 2017. Colvin’s passer rating against when targeted was 83.9 and he finished the regular season with 1 pass deflection and no interceptions.

I’m not a stat guy, but digest that however you want.

Checking The Tape

Coverage

Because Hayden played mostly on the boundary as a right cornerback for the Lions, I tried to find reps where he would be in the types of coverages that would simulate what he would be doing in the Jaguars scheme as an inside guy.

In this play, Hayden quickly diagnoses the underneath route from the right cornerback position and breaks immediately to shadow the receiver step-for-step.

Hayden can expect a lot of situations where he’ll have to marry mental processing and urgent breaks on drags and slants from an inside alignment.

One term you’ll hear often for nickel corners is mirroring. Mirroring hinges on quick-twitch and sudden change of direction, agility, and lateral control to virtually become a shadow for the WR wherever he goes.

On tape, Hayden possesses these traits in droves, and you have to wonder why a forward-thinking defensive coordinator hasn’t moved him inside sooner.

Hayden lines up as the right cornerback here and shows great fluidity in his press and bail technique. The receiver attempts to freeze Hayden with a slight stutter but Hayden doesn’t bite, running in-phase stride for stride downfield.

In this example, Hayden shows outstanding discipline in zone coverage to keep his eyes on the passer and remain on the hip pocket of the receiver on a curl and go.

Based on the plays I’ve seen, Hayden exhibits better ball skills than what I’ve seen from Colvin and shows good courage at the catch point.

Here, Hayden sinks his hips, plants, then drives back to suffocate the curl route with urgency to make a play and prevent the catch.

When it comes to coverage, this play is probably the best example of how Hayden will be used in the Jaguars defense. The Lions are in a Cover 2 Cloud Zone and Hayden is quick to process the hand off of the WR to his safety and shoot downfield to pick up the tight end in the flat.

Hayden gets there so fast that he surprises the TE with how quickly he lays a lick.

Run Support

As surprised as I am that no team has ever featured Hayden as a featured slot cornerback, Hayden’s ability in run support could be the answer as to why.

Open-field tackling is not necessarily what I would label as a strength of Hayden’s. On tape, he’s shown a tendency to drop his head in 1v1 situations and fail to wrap up.

Here is an example of Hayden deep in off man where he has to corral a runner moving at him with a full head of steam in the open field.

Hayden is a much more reliable tackler when he can attack downfield and have the confidence of knowing he will be the hammer, not the nail. Watch him knife in here on this WR screen and wrap up the receiver short of the first down marker.

These are the type of situations Hayden will be in more often lining up closer to the line of scrimmage.

 Play-Making

One feather that Hayden can put in his hat over Aaron Colvin is making plays that impact the momentum of the game. Hayden has 3 career INTs, and he has also played a hand in his share of fumbles in his career.

Hayden recovered this fumble for a touchdown against a division rival, and had another fumble recovery in 2017. A lack of making impact plays has long been a gripe about Colvin’s game, and I would expect Hayden to at least play a part in more turnovers than Colvin did, because quite simply, it would be impossible not to.

Moving from being an outside to inside corner, something Colvin may be doing the opposite of in going to Houston, should translate well in regards to turnovers because the defensive back is mentally programmed to attack the ball and not the man.

 Conclusion

Since Hayden has rarely played slot corner in his career, the Jaguars are basically hoping that his skill set projects to what they want their nickel corner to do. Hayden does possess the traits that a successful slot corner relies on to succeed, particularly quick-twitch, mirroring, and urgency in planting and driving downfield.

Hayden is not going to be asked to play out of his scope and will largely be responsible in smothering the flats and underneath routes in the Todd Wash’s scheme. Additionally, Hayden’s experience as a perimeter corner adds to his value as a depth piece in the event Jalen Ramsey or AJ Bouye miss some time due to injuries.

Ultimately, I don’t expect much of a drop off or a difference from what we saw from Aaron Colvin in going to Hayden.

I still wouldn’t have given this deal to a player without proven production at the position I’m signing him to play, but the ability to patch a need and free up flexibility heading into the draft is something this team obviously felt they needed.

Filip is a Locked On Jaguars contributor who focuses on Offseason and Draft topics. Filip is the creator of ScouTurf.com, a collegiate scouting website that encompasses formula NFL roster grading as well as his graphic design portfolio. Filip also works as a Big 12/Conference USA Regional Area Scout for Optimum Scouting and is responsible for compiling OS’ advanced analytics for Wide Receivers. Filip is a University of South Carolina alum, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Sports Management and was a four-year captain for the Gamecocks Club Soccer team as a Goalkeeper. Filip currently lives in Tegucigalpa, Honduras with his wife, Katelyn, and two very good dogs, Balto and Daisy, working as a Special Investigator for the U.S. State Department.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars Activate Tackle Josh Wells, Release Niles Paul from IR

Demetrius Harvey

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Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars have made a couple more roster moves this Friday after releasing Strong Safety Barry Church. The Jaguars have finally activated Tackle Josh Wells. Wells was placed on short-term injured reserve after week five with a groin injury.

This move comes at an opportune time as the Jaguars will be without Right Tackle Jermey Parnell. Wells will more than likely start at Right Tackle this week against the Redskins.

The Jaguars have also released Niles Paul from injured reserve, signed Lyndon Johnson from the teams practice squad, and placed OL Josh Walker on injured reserve.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars vs. Redskins: Friday Injury Report, Parnell Out, Lambo in Doubt

Demetrius Harvey

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Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars and the Washington Redskins have released their Friday final status/injury report of the week ahead of their week fifteen matchup at TIAA Bank Field. For the Jaguars, they will be without Jermey Parnell, D.J. Chark, and Josh Walker.

All three players are listed as out with various injuries. The Jaguars have a move they could potentially make in activating Tackle Josh Wells who has been practicing the past couple of weeks. D.J. Chark will miss his fourth consecutive game making his rookie season disappointing in the end, unfortunately.

The other major area of concern is kicker Josh Lambo being listed as Questionable. A little later in the day, the Jaguars signed Kicker Kai Forbath which suggests he will probably be out this Sunday against the Redkins. We will revisit this on Sunday when the inactive players are released.

Below are both teams status reports:

JAGUARS:

WR D.J. Chark Jr. (Quadricep): Out

RT Jermey Parnell (Knee): Out

OL Josh Walker (Ankle): Out

LB Lerentee McCray (Illness): Questionable

K Josh Lambo (Right Groin): Questionable

REDSKINS:

LB Ryan Anderson (Hamstring): Out

TE Jordan Reed (Ankle/Foot): Out

WR Josh Doctson (Concussion): Questionable

DE Matt Ioannidis (Shin): Questionable

OT Ty Neskhe (Knee): Questionable

OT Mogan Moses (Ankle): Questionable

LS Nick Sundberg (Back): Questionable

S Monte Nicholson (Illness): Questionable

RB Chris Thompson (Illness): Questionable

The Redskins have a much more lengthy status report than the Jaguars which is remarkable given how the Jaguars injuries have gone this season. Washington will be without at least a couple of starters including their starting Linebacker and Tight End. They also more than likely will be without a starting wide receiver in Josh Doctson.

Their Long Snapper Nick Sundberg has a high possibility of missing the game this Sunday as well because of a back injury. They have brought in a few long snappers to work out in the event he is not able to go.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars sign Kicker Kai Forbath in Wake of Josh Lambo Injury

Demetrius Harvey

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Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars have made a roster move in wake of the Josh Lambo right-groin injury. They have signed former Redskins and Vikings Kicker Kai Forbath. Forbath has a career FG% of 85.9% which is at the very least respectable in a league where kickers seem to be missing routine kicks daily now.

With Lambo potentially out the Jaguars were forced into a move. This could always be more of a cautionary move in the case Lambo does not play, but generally speaking, if a team signs a kicker near the end of the week it is not a good sign. We will see what happens when the last injury report comes out.

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