Raiders’ Hayden has his heart in the game

Speaking with media Monday, Raiders coach Dennis Allen praised the Chicago Bears from just about every angle. The Bears have proven they deserve respect, but the tone of Allen’s voice seemed to hint at pessimism in his own team’s abilities.

In Oakland’s favor, though, is first-round pick DJ Hayden, expected to start his first NFL game.

The Raiders drafted Hayden No. 12 overall in 2013 even after he suffered a near-fatal heart injury in practice as a member of the Houston Cougars last November.

Allen weighed in on concerns surrounding the rookie cornerback’s health and wellbeing:

“Out there on the corner I don’t know that you get a lot of hits but he competed today. I think we’re anxious to see (what he can do) and I think he’s anxious to see.”

The Raiders began preparations today for their final home game of the preseason. Allen paid respects to every aspect of Chicago’s team:

“They’re extremely good on defense, they’re very good up front. Their linebackers are really fast and they’ve played good defense for a long time. They’ve taken the ball away a lot, so we have got to protect the football. I think Jay Cutler is a really good quarterback and obviously Brandon Marshall presents some challenges in the passing game.”

Returning from an injury this week is defensive tackle Vance Walker, who as an offseason acquisition is sitting atop the depth chart.

A seventh round pick for Atlanta, Walker has never recorded more than 32 tackles and three sacks in a season. While Walker’s job appears safe, it’s not because he’s accomplished but due to a serious lack of depth at the line of scrimmage.

Allen said:

“I thought he [Walker] looked fine, he looked well. We’re trying to ease him in and for the first day back, he did some good things. When we brought him here we thought he was going to be a good run stopper. … He’s proven to be a bit better than I anticipated as a pass rusher, so anything we get out of him there is a bonus.”

The Bears offensive line has developed a reputation as perennial underachievers and the matchups that Walker will get may be favorable.

The Raiders offensive line is still reeling from a recent injury to left tackle Jared Veldheer that may keep the young star sidelined for three months. They’re also without right tackle Menelik Watson, who could be the next man up to replace Veldheer should Alex Barron continue to struggle. Allen weighed in:

“We gotta get the best five guys that give us the best chance of success. Whoever those five guys are, we gotta find out. I think Watson (at left tackle) is a possibility; it’s something that we’ll look at.”

Allen also told reporters that left guard Tony Bergstrom has been taking practice reps at the left tackle position.

Entering the third preseason game, Raider Nation can expect to see more of the starters than usual. The players that play the least could become casualties of trimming the roster down to 75 men, which is something that will happen not long after the game.

It may seem silly to think that the Raiders might actually send guys packing following the first half blowout that Oakland endured Friday, and Allen said he expects see what he has while hosting Chicago.

NOTES

There is still no official word on the seriousness of injuries sustained last week to cornerback Tracy Porter or tight end David Ausberry. Both players looked to be crucial elements on their respective sides of the ball and losing both for an extended period could prove to be a massive blow to the team. … Wide receiver Jacoby Ford and right guard Mike Briesel did not participate in team drills Monday, though Breisel did do some individual drills.


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