Heyward-Bey finally carving out a niche


It wasn’t until their third NFL season before cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and running back Darren McFadden showed promises of reaching the potential envisioned when the Raiders selected them in the first round of the NFL draft.

So, perhaps, it’s not surprising that wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey finally is showing signs of developing into a legitimate NFL receiver.

Through seven games, he has career-highs in receptions (27) and yards (434) and has scored one touchdown. He is averaging a robust 16.1 yards per reception.

“I said before the year started, ‘It’s time,’ ” Raiders coach Hue Jackson said. “And he’s done that. He’s risen to the occasion. Twenty seven catches, over 400 yards. He’s doing well. He needs to continue to get better.”

The Raiders selected Heyward-Bey with the seventh pick of the 2009 NFL draft. He was tabbed ahead of the likes of Kenny Britt, Michael Crabtree, Percy Harvin, Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin, Hakeem Nicks, Austin Collie and Mohamed Massaquoi.

Heyward-Bey was the first wide receiver taken that year. It wasn’t long before the Raiders were criticized for whiffing on their selection of Heyward-Bey.

He struggled with his route running, getting open on a consistent basis and, most of all, catching the ball. Yet, the Raiders stuck by him in hopes he would find his comfort zone at some point.

“The light’s on,” Jackson said. “It’s been on. Darrius has always been a hard woorker. Just more opportunities coming his way. He’s making more plays, his confidence is up and he’s doing well.”

Another wide receiver from the 2009 class was Louis Murphy, who the Raiders selected in the fourth round out of Florida. Murphy led the Raiders wide receivers in receptions and yards each of the past two seasons, and he looked like the better receiver in every capacity.

Things changed when Jackson replaced Tom Cable as coach and offensive coordinator Al Saunders arrived. They broke down film of Heyward-Bey from the past two seasons and discovered that he had a some flaws that needed to be eliminated and the Raiders weren’t doing a good job of running the plays best suited for his talents.

To that end, Heyward-Bey has worked hard to catch the ball with his hands more often, as opposed to against his body, and not to leave his feet when he doesn’t have to. Also, Jackson is calling plays in which Heyward-Bey gets the ball in his hands closer to the line of scrimmage, where he is free to use his speed to make yards after the catch.

New quarterback Carson Palmer has been around Heyward-Bey for less than two weeks. He completed a pass to Heyward-Bey on his first down with the Raiders. Palmer said he likes what he has seen from Heyward-Bey so far.

“Good timing. He’s been working really hard,” Palmer said. “Nobody had a good game on Sunday. I’ve only been around him during practice. He works really hard. He’s obviously fast. He can be a complete receiver. He just needs to continue to work and his confidence needs to continue to grow. The only way your confidence grows is by doing things on game day and making plays, and he’ll do that for us.”

Through it all, Heyward-Bey has worked hard, done everything asked of him and found ways to help out, even if it meant blocking for the running backs and other receivers.

He said he doesn’t notice the quarterbacks having anymore trust in him now than they did the past two seasons. His heightened production this season owes to things coming together.

“They’ve got trust in all of us, to be honest,” Heyward-Bey said. “We do a great job in practice, being where we need to be and that carries over in to the game. So, as long as they throw it, we’re going to try and catch it.”

When the Raiders drafted Heyward-Bey, they envisioned a game-changing receiver. It remains to be seen whether he can progress into that kind of player. Yet, there now is hope, where before there wasn’t much.

As it turns out, the most consistent receiver out of the 2009 draft has been Wallace.

Wallace has 36 catches for 730 yards (20.3-yard average) and five touchdowns in seven games this season. He had 1,257 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns last season.

Overall, Wallace has caught 135 passes for 2,743 yards (20.3 avg.) and 21 touchdowns in 39 games — 27 starts. By comparison, Heyward-Bey has caught 62 passes for 924 yards (14.9) and three touchdowns in 32 games — 31 starts.

It’s not likely that Heyward-Bey will reach Wallace’s level, but the Raiders have to be happy with where Heyward-Bey is at right now based on the meager return they received the past two seasons.

Follow me on Twitter: @corkonthenfl


Steve Corkran

  • LA to TheBay

    And he bangs super models

  • Sullivan44

    RaiderRockstar Says:
    October 31st, 2011 at 12:39 pm


    Bill Maher = Sullivan44 with money, basically


    Thank you!

    The guy’s successful, rich, cool as hell, gets a gang of women, smart, has been on t.v. for nearly 20 years. I’ll take that comparison.

  • RaiderRockstar

    Bodden has a base salary of $3.9 million in 2011. Since the trade deadline has passed, he’ll be subject to waivers. If claimed, his new team would absorb the balance, which is $2.064 million.



    I don’t see that happening in Oakland

  • LA to TheBay

    Sullivan44 Says:
    October 31st, 2011 at 12:35 pm
    Do you guys really follow Bill Maher this much? I like the guy, and I try to catch his show. But my goodness you guys are just on top of him, quoting him, etc. Are you guys getting this from some website? Or do you watch him that much? I like the guy and I don’t watch him that much.


    Conservatives like to paint liberals based on what Bill Maher says much the way liberals like to paint conservatives based on what Bill O’Reilly or Rush says.

  • DMAC

    new post suckas

  • bcz24

    Javon Ringer stealing some carries does not bode well for the rest of his season. I hope he doesn’t quit after the HUGE payday like Larry Johnson & Shaun Alexander did
    The Titans said today that CJ and Ringer would be spitting carries 50/50 going forward.

    CJHaynesworth is done.

  • RaiderRockstar

    You obviously don’t catch much Maher.

    Maher’s funny. And he bangs super models



    If you and MR want to take that as a compliment, go for it

    I’ll stick to the comparison

  • Bill Maher is a ugly goat. Who in the world takes him seriously. He’s Hell bound anyway unless he repents unto our Lord and Saviour.

  • RaiderRockstar Says:
    October 31st, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    Bill Maher = Sullivan44 with money, basically
    Wow, I can’t believe you just admitted that MR is smarter than you.

  • Silverandblack666


    Wake up its not 1950 anymore!

  • 666…It’s not the 50’s anymore? Stop lying. lol

  • Raiders_83

    About Time

    The Raiders showed up for practice today with a new #21 in the fold. That player turned out to be former Eagle Pro Bowl corner Lito Sheppard.

  • Raiders_83


  • ravenaider

    Lito Shephard signed…Houzmanzadah to work out tomorrow

  • eastoaklandraider

    I hear some folks dogging r recievers. Check it out u have to have a good QB to let ur wideouts get there shine on unless ur tim brown or a few other greats who put up numbers no matter the QB. But be real who really knew about welker until he hooked up with brady and everybody thought moss was washed up till he got with brady. We haven’t had a good QB since gannon we all knw this JC was avg at best. I believe CP3 can be great and if he is watch our receiving corp get compared to GB. Watch and see.

  • eastoaklandraider

    Now lito is washed up can he even play man to man guess we’ll see. Then they give him primetimes # don’t disrespect the best db ever like that an I know he can’t tackle but who gives a fk

  • eastoaklandraider

    Lito shepard is washed up last seen him gettn burned in Min. Can he even play man to man. Then they give him primetimes number don’t disrespect the best DB ever like that (I knw he can’t tackle but who gives a fk)