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Oakland Raiders WR Darrius Heyward-Bey: Improvement By The Numbers

It's no secret that early in his career, Darrius Heyward-Bey was considered a huge bust. He was viewed as a perfect picture of everything that was perceived as wrong with the Raiders' draft approach- drafting speed and size over talent. For much of his first two seasons, the numbers supported that argument. In 2009, Heyward-Bey's rookie year, he played in 11 games and only caught 9 passes for 124 yards with one touchdown, despite being targeted 41 times. He had seven dropped passes and caught an abysmal 23% of the passes thrown in his direction.

Heyward-Bey showed some improvement in 2010, becoming a larger part of the offense, now led by Jason Campbell. He was targeted 60 times and again had seven drops, with 26 receptions for 366 yards and one touchdown. He improved his catch rate to 41% of all passes thrown his way- not amongst the league leaders by any means, but better than his rookie year.

This year, he has surpassed his previous marks with 27 receptions for 434 yards in just 6 games. He has only dropped two passes and is catching 54% of the passes thrown his way. He has been targeted 49 times already. He is well on pace for a 100-target, 1,000 receiving yard season. He only has one touchdown, but with 8.1 targets per game and Carson Palmer quarterbacking the team for the foreseeable future, it's safe to say the touchdowns will come.

Heyward-Bey deserved the criticism in his first two seasons by dropping a tremendous number of passes and being generally unproductive, but this year the statistics show that he has worked hard to correct his error-prone ways. Judging by the number of passes being thrown his way it is obvious that the coaching staff is making a concerted effort to make Heyward-Bey the focal point of the passing game and he is poised to have the most productive season by a Raider wideout in many years.