Last year as a rookie, cornerback Nate Hobbs impressed the coaching staff from the moment he stepped onto the court in the offseason as a fifth-round pick.
This continued through training camp, preseasons, and throughout the regular season. Hobbs was a surprise as a cornerback.
Now, a game playing for a new regime with the Las Vegas Raiders and Hobbs has already impressed the new staff. Hobbs stood out in the Raiders’ 24-19 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.
He was excellent in coverage with a key pass breakup that gave the Raiders a chance to win the game. New Las Vegas defensive coordinator Patrick Graham was happy to see Hobbs’ game adapting to his system. Graham wasn’t surprised because Graham closely followed Hobbs before the draft last year when he was in the same role with the New York Giants.
“He was a really good player last year. I mean, the thing that I said to him right when he was coming out of college, I remember when he was in Illinois, and we obviously rated when I was in New York and I liked him,” Graham said. “I didn’t know if he was going to be in right away, and I told him because you get to know these guys everything throughout the process. Before I even had a chance to coach him, I was like, ‘Hey, I’m proud that you became a starter so early.’ And so, just to see his growth since his last year in Illinois, last year here with the Raiders and now that we have him, I’m really proud of him. I think he has definitely improved. And the thing is, he’s hungry to get better on the road.
One of the reasons Hobbs is so valuable is that he has shown he can play outside as well as in the slots corner where he excelled last year. With starter Anthony Averett out with a thumb injury, Hobbs is expected to play a lot on the road over the coming week. Graham appreciates Hobbs’ flexibility,
“It’s going to happen throughout the year in terms of importance for defensive players who can play in multiple places just to be able to move them around and see how we’re going to affect the offense,” Graham said. “And one thing about Nate, he’s going to compete. You saw him in a few positions on Sunday, and he did very well. He competed on that last third, that penultimate third, it was a really good game that third and three right there. Really proud of him there. He was on their go-to-guy, and he did a play. So really proud of him there, and he just knows that, like everyone else, he was just trying to improve day by day.