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Casey Hayward Wins AFC Defensive Player of the Month

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As the Chargers continue to gain steam, their top cornerback is finally gaining some national recognition.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Following phenomenal performances over the past few weeks, including a two-pick performance against the Buffalo Bills, Casey Hayward was named the best defender in the AFC. Hayward had three interceptions throughout the month.

Although he has put together almost two full seasons of terrific play with the Bolts, this is his first accolade since winning Rookie of the Month with Green Bay back in 2012.

For the first time in his career, Hayward is garnering national attention. After he took Dez Bryant out of the game on Thanksgiving, every football fan in America was introduced to Los Angeles’ best defensive back.

Hayward doesn’t just pass the eye test. According to Pro Football Focus, Hayward is their highest rated cornerback this season and has claimed three of the five highest graded weekly performances in 2017.

As the Chargers defense continues to improve, much of the credit should go to Hayward. When Hayward shuts down opposing quarterbacks favorite weapons, it can change an entire offensive gameplan. Trusting him in one-on-one situations has allowed defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to send extra pressure on passing downs.

Last season, the Chargers signed Hayward to a three-year $15.3 million deal to be their slot cornerback. After injuries forced him to play outside, it became immediately clear that Hayward was a special player.

With his contract coming to an end after next season, it might be time to think extension. Hayward is now firmly in the conversation of elite corners and deserves to be paid like one.

Within the past year, Hayward has lost both his mother and brother. Despite the recent tragedies in his life, he continues to play at a high level. One of the easiest players to root for, it is great to finally see him getting his due.