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Jaguars veteran CB D.J. Hayden feels the tides turning on defense

The Jaguars’ defense has struggled for week, but cornerback D.J. Hayden can feel a change in the air.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Making up for past mistakes will be rather difficult, especially when you have to make up the mistakes the Jaguars’ defense has made through the first three weeks of the season.

Simply put, the defensive play by Jacksonville hasn’t been good. There have been very few redeeming qualities sans a fantastic rookie performance by CJ Henderson in week one, and a few other moments that have ultimately not made a major difference in the win-loss column with the team sitting at 1-2.

This week, the Jaguars will attempt to turn the defense around against the Cincinnati Bengals who have not been the most consistent team on offense through three weeks in the NFL under the guidance of rookie quarterback Joe Burrow.

Slow starts have been a major issue with the Jaguars’ defense this year. In the first three weeks of the season, the team has surrendered an opening-drive touchdown to their opponents. The team has had to battle back from deficits of 14-7, 14-0 and 21-7 over the past three weeks, respectively.

Veteran Jaguars cornerback D.J. Hayden says while the team has started out slow this season, he feels this week could be different.

“The first couple drives of the games, it’s really slow for us.” Hayden said on Monday. “I think it’s taken us a little time to get the blood flowing and everything, but it’s a young team and we’re still growing. Some guys [are] still learning, but I’m excited about this next up and coming week because I feel like we’re going to play a lot faster.”

Hayden says he senses a greater sense of urgency from his teammates, seeing it in their body language and how the team has prepared following their worst loss of the season to the Miami Dolphins.

“You know I’m a real superstitious type of guy and I just get feelings. It’s just something I can’t explain. There’s no textbook of how to explain that. I just get good feelings.”

In pregame, Hayden stares at the opposing quarterback or who he’s going to be guarding for the day, just as part of one of his superstitious pre-game rituals.

“I mean they can’t see me but that’s just me locking into them or something.”

The Jaguars will need to lock in this week when facing Burrow. Although he’s a rookie, he’s shined in three starts with below-average play surrounding him, particularly on the offensive line.

In total, Burrow has thrown for 821 yards, five touchdowns and just one interception, while completing 91 out of 141 (64.5%) of his passing attempts. They’ll have to find a way to slow him down, Hayden says.

“We’re going to have to lock in, strap up, get some pass break ups, get some turnovers, make him uncomfortable, get some sacks. We just have to ball out,” he said. “The last two weeks, we didn’t really get it done so we have to get it done this week.”

While the defense has struggle, the team’s offense has been a different story - at least for the first two games of the season. The Jaguars’ offense can provide a spark. Against Indianapolis in week one, the team’s offense was able to battle back, which in turn helped provide a spark for the defense.

“[It’s] just how like the offense makes plays, it gets us pumped up and when we make plays, it gets them pumped up,” Hayden said when asked if the offense provides some motivation for the defense to lock in.

“So, to go out there and see guys like James Robinson making plays, Laviska [Shenault Jr.] making plays, seeing DJ [Chark Jr.] making plays, Gardner [Minshew II] making plays, when those guys are out there making plays, they get us crunk on the sideline then we want to go out there and do something too.

“It’s vice versa so the more we can do that, the better the Jaguars will be this year.”