While no one should put too much stock into the preseason, the Raiders have to be really encouraged by what they saw from their defense over the last few weeks. New defensive coordinator Gus Bradley had his unit playing fast and confidently, something we haven’t seen in a long time from the Raiders.
One of the players that stood out the most in the preseason for the Raiders is slot cornerback Nate Hobbs. The fifth-round rookie from Illinois had an impressive preseason, making plays both in coverage and as a blitzer. Because of his strong training camp and preseason performance, he has locked down the starting slot job for the Raiders in Week 1.
Just how good was Hobbs in the preseason? According to Pro Football Focus, he was the site’s highest-graded rookie cornerback during the preseason. He was also named to the All-Rookie Team by the site as they praised him for his play:
“It’s no secret that Las Vegas has had issues at cornerback in recent years. Hobbs is obviously a long shot to fix that as a fifth-rounder, but he was the highest-graded rookie corner this preseason. Hobbs played 57 snaps — 30 in the slot and 27 out wide — and earned a 90.7 overall grade. Both his pass breakup and his interception against the Los Angeles Rams came in an impressive fashion. Expect him to see serious playing time this year.”
It remains to be seen if Hobbs can roll this positive buzz and momentum into the regular season, but the early signs have been fantastic. Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden might have solved their slot cornerback issues this year in the form of Nate Hobbs.
Look for Hobbs to be among the starters in Week 1 when the Raiders take on the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football.