To the surprise/chagrin of most Oakland Raiders’ fans and the league, Al Davis selected Darrius Heyward-Bey, commonly known as “DHB” with the 7th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. With fellow Wide Receiver Michael Crabtree available, it left many fans and analysts baffled. A typical Al Davis HWS (Height-Weight-Speed) pick, Bey came out of college with shaky hands, and poor Route-Running. He was considered as project, at best. Many didn’t expect Bey to make a huge impact his rookie year, and they were right. He only tallied; 9 Catches for 124 Yards, and 1 Touchdown. He showed the traits that scouts and fans were worried about; poor route-running and inconsistent hands. Many people attributed the poor Quarterback situation (the Jamarcus Russel fiasco) to his lack of production.
Going into his second-year, people were expecting huge improvements out of DHB. With new Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson, along with the addition of Jason Campbell ( a somewhat competent Quarterback), Raiders fans were expecting a 1,000 yard season out of DHB. He made a slight improvement from his rookie year, tallying; 26 Catches, 366 Yards, and 1 Touchdown. Those are decent numbers, but not what is expected out of a 1st-Round pick. He showed a lack of ability to make plays down-field and wasn’t able to consistently get his hands on the ball. The “bust” label was starting to be thrown around, and going into the 2011 offseason, there was some debate within Raidernation wondering if we should release DHB. In 2011, he had the best season of his pro-career. He tallied; 64 Catches, 975 Yards, and 4 Touchdowns. He showed improvements in almost every area of his game. He also had good chemistry with mid-season addition Carson Palmer.
One of the reason’s Heyward-Bey’s underwhelming performance his first 3 years in the league was; he was being used the wrong way. In Hue Jackson’s/Al Davis’ Air-Coryell offense, they attempted to use DHB as a deep-threat. DHB may have 4.2 speed, but that doesn’t mean he is a elite deep-threat. DHB was used more as a decoy, rather than playing to his strengths. Some fans think this opened-up the offense for others, but if you watch tape, you know this isn’t true. The opposing defense would just put their #2 corner on him and play off-man, and shut-him-down completely.The opposing defense wouldn’t play their safeties deep like some fans may have gotten you to think.
It’s 2012 now. Hue Jackson is gone, Dennis Allen is the new Head Coach. Allen, a defensive-minded Head Coach, hired the Houston Texans Quarterback Coach, and former Raider Offensive Coordinator Greg Knapp to run the offense. In Greg Knapp’s West Coast Offense you will see that the scheme plays to DHB’s strengths. DHB is best at catching short timing-routes and Yards After Catch (YAC). If you watch tape from last season, you will that when the coaching staff had him running timing-routes he was a different receiver. In Knapp’s offense you will see DHB line-up at “X” (Split-End) and “Y” (Slot). Knapp will have DHB run; Slants, Curls, In’s, Dig’s, Out’s (See: Route Tree). These are routes that DHB has had great success running. And with Knapp’s emphasis on drawing the defense in with short-passing and running the football, I expect DHB to be a huge part of the offense. Knapp will actually use DHB, rather than using him as a decoy. While I still think that DHB should improve on catching the deep-ball, he won’t need to in Knapp’s offense. DHB will be used as a possession-reviver, while Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford will be the deep-threats.
If DHB can continue the great chemistry with Carson Palmer, I expect big things from him. I feel that DHB will be used properly, and it will have a positive affect on his production. Prediction Alert! Now while don’t like making predictions this early I have a good feeling about this one.Darrius Heyward-Bey will Catch 83 passes for 1250 Yards, and catch 6 Touchdowns during the 2012 season. He may have been overdrafted, but DHB is a hard-worker and has improved immensely. I think all of his hard work will pay-off this year. He has already proved many of his doubters wrong, and he will make Al Davis look smart for taking him over Michael Crabtree.