ALAMEDA Raiders rookie cornerback D.J. Hayden has not played against Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. He figures the two will become well-acquainted Monday night in Denver.
In what will be the biggest test of his young NFL career, Hayden figures to get his most extensive playing time yet as the Raiders attempt to slow the red-hot Broncos and a Manning-led offense that has scored more than 40 points in each of its first two games.
Hayden, the 12th overall pick in the April draft, is eager to find out how he'll stand up against the future Hall of Fame quarterback.
"Your technique has to be even better this week," Hayden said Thursday. "Your technique, alignment, assignments, key reads it all has to be better because you're going against a great player. Just OK is not going to cut it."
Hayden is the youngest and least-experienced member of the Raiders' secondary, and that has made him a target for quarterbacks. Indianapolis' Andrew Luck sought him out repeatedly in the opener, and Jacksonville's Chad Henne followed suit last week.
In Manning, Hayden and the Raiders (1-1) face an entirely different type of challenge. Manning already has thrown for more yards (769) and touchdowns (nine) without an interception in two games than any player in NFL history. Manning, 37, also has a 131 passer rating while continuing his steady climb up the NFL's career passing charts.
"He tries to see what the defense is doing and looks at the leverages and goes from there," Hayden said. "We have to get pressure up front through the pocket."
The Raiders have started surprisingly fast defensively this season. Oakland is tied for the NFL lead with nine sacks running the blitz-happy schemes of defensive coordinator Jason Tarver.
How much Oakland will blitz Manning is debatable since few, if any, quarterbacks in the NFL have as quick a release.
"Precision, execution, precision," Tarver said in explaining the best method to beat Manning. "That's what he does so that's what you have to do to play with this type of offense. We need to make sure the pocket is the way we want, not the way they want it."
Hayden has had a thin line of success this season. He gave up three completions for first downs against the Colts. Hayden improved his coverage last weekend but still found Jacksonville's Henne searching for him and throwing in his direction.
"I just have to finish and be more aggressive on the ball," he said.
Notes Backup center Andre Gurode practiced at left guard with the first-team offense for the second straight day while starter Lucas Nix rested a sore ankle.
Tight end David Ausberry (shoulder), safety Tyvon Branch (ankle) and tackle Menelik Watson (knee) did not practice.