Something to Prove: Kelvin Hayden

At the outset of each new season there are a number of players who, for various reasons, have failed to live up to expectations.  Others are under pressure to perform at a high level in an effort to score a lucrative contract extension.  The “Something to Prove” series will discuss each of these players as the Colts head into summer activities and prepare for the 2010 NFL season.

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Kelvin Hayden became one of the highest paid players on the Colts roster after he scored a five-year 43 million dollar contract prior to the 2009 season.  What is somewhat surprising about Hayden’s production is that over the last three years he has had a shrinking defensive impact.  Take a close look at his statistics over the last three years.

  • 2009 – 12 games, 11 starts, 77 tackles, 2 interceptions, 7 passes defended, 1 forced fumble
  • 2008 – 11 games, 11 starts, 44 tackles, 3 interceptions, 12 passes defended, 1 TD, 1 forced fumble
  • 2007 – 17 games, 17 starts, 86 tackles, 4 interceptions, 11 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles

Keep in mind that these statistics include the playoffs, without which 2009 would have been his worst season statistically since taking over a starting spot in 2007.  Beyond that, 2008 showed a dramatic decrease in production from his first season as a starter.

The largest reason for this trend, Colts fans must hope, is due to nagging injuries that have kept Hayden out of chunks of the 2008 and 2009 season.  Watching him in the 2009 playoffs it was easy to see that he still had not returned to form, noticeably struggling more in 2009 than he had in previous seasons.

Needless to say, with the injury to Kevin Thomas and the release of Tim Jennings and T.J. Rushing following the 2009 season, Hayden needs to re-emerge as the leader of the Colts corners.  Additionally, with such a large contract and with the emergence of both Jerraud Powers and Jacob Lacey, who proved they were capable substitutes in his absence, Hayden needs to prove that he is worth the high salary.

The good news for Colts fans is that Hayden stayed healthy for the final seven games in 2009.  If he has his hamstring issues under control and manages to stay healthy in 2010, he should easily produce career numbers.  His presence will also give the Colts the strongest three corner back rotation that it has seen since Peyton Manning arrived, assuming Lacey and Powers continue developing and manage to also stay healthy.

Hayden’s performance in 2010 may very well play a key role in determining Indianapolis’ success, and may also determine his future with the Colts.  Hopefully this is apparent to Hayden as much as it is to Colts fans and he will play with an intensity that reflects these realities.

Addendum:

After receiving some feedback regarding Hayden’s performance last year, which suggested that some are unsure that he played poorly, I thought I would take this a step further and provide another bit of statistical support.

While all statistical date can be manipulated to support a position, and while I find that relying on statistical support alone in assessing a player is weak, I think the following statistical data from Football Outsiders is illustrative of what I would expect from what I saw on Sundays.

It is also worth noting that, as one of the highest paid players on the team, Hayden should have been clearly distinguishable as the best corner on the team, specifically while Lacey and Powers were rookies.  Personally, I never really saw that, or felt that way last year.

Advanced Stats vs Pass

All Pass Plays Receptions Only
Year Team Pos Plays Stops Dfts Yd/Play Rank Stop Rate Rank Pct Tm Tkl Stops Stop Rate
2009 IND CB 37 10 3 7.6 27 27% 93 8% 32.0 5.0 16%
2008 IND CB 38 19 10 7.3 27 50% 13 10% 26.0 7.0 27%
2007 IND CB 68 24 10 7.1 20 35% 64 17% 58.0 14.0 24%
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