3. Age, injury, and regression
To put it bluntly, Hayward lost a step last year. Many in the LA Chargers community will link his performance to his injury in Week 8 vs. Denver, but it was a rough year for him before that. Against Cincinnati in Week 1 and Tampa Bay in Week 4, Hayward allowed 193 yards on 13 receptions and a touchdown combined.
Perhaps one would write those off as just two bad games. However, Hayward hadn’t allowed 80+ yards in a game since facing off against Antonio Brown in 2018. After his Week 8 injury against Denver, he had three games of 75+ yards allowed against the Jets, Falcons, and Raiders.
Some of Hayward’s regression was due to the groin injury, but it must be said that it wasn’t going well before that. As we’ve seen with many other coverage corners in the NFL, regression comes quickly once they hit the age 30 wall. All of this combined with the fact that Hayward would be 32 in the 2021 season just wasn’t a recipe for success.
This brings it back to the change in defensive scheme as well. Staley likes youth and mobility in his high-energy defensive scheme. Hayward’s trajectory was simply going in the opposite direction.
Personally, I’m going to miss Hayward’s presence in the cornerback room. The Jackboyz era has clearly come to a close with most members being replaced. His 2017 season, in particular, was special and he earned two All-Pro nominations in his time here. He’s one of the better defensive stories for the Chargers in the last 20 years.
Hayward is also a reminder of how valuable free agency can be this coming week, if used correctly.