Young cornerback duo shine despite tough loss
Despite a rocky start to the 2022 season, the Las Vegas Raiders have seen two of their young cornerbacks flourish recently. Second-year defenseman Nate Hobbs and third-year cornerback Amik Robertson quietly reunited outstanding performance in consecutive games. So much so that the likes of Pro Football Focus gave Hobbs and Robertson the top 10 coverage ratings of any NFL cornerback. Let’s take a closer look at this new Raiders trend.
To understand how these two young CBs received so much praise, we’ll look at the window of opportunity that opened up for them, how Patrick Graham’s new program has helped them, and some areas where they need to improve to continue to grow.
Raiders News: An opportunity presented itself
Heading into Week 1, Dave Ziegler and Josh McDaniels’ new regime probably felt good with how their cornerback room had taken shape. Following the trade involving Trayvon Mullen that sent him to Arizona, the Raiders entered the season with newly acquired Rock Ya-Sin and Anthony Averett locking up CB’s two outside spots. Nate Hobbs and Amik Robertson entered the third and fourth corners respectively. Everything changed in week 1. It was revealed that Averett had broken his thumb. The injury landed him on injured reserve, with a four-week absence coming up.
With Averett injured, it was then up to Hobbs and Robertson to answer the call on Sunday. The two young defenders not only answered the call, but they did well with the chance given to them. Robertson made his first interception of his career in the first half against Arizona, for example.
It will be up to this pair to continue to find success in the absence of playmakers. If they can continue this streak of quality play, Averett might find it difficult to return to his starting role.
An improved scheme
As Graham dabbles in a bit of Gus Bradley-ish Cover 3, it runs a much more diverse program than its predecessor. Thus, Hobbs and Robertson had the opportunity to see how their playing styles translate to the wishes of the current staff. Using a lot of Cover 6 on early downs and Cover 0 on short range blitzes/downs, the duo became a force in the Man and Zone concepts.
Not only did the improved scheme give more flexibility to the Raiders’ defense as a whole, but it allowed the secondary more leeway when switching between concepts. Putting his players in the best position possible has worked well for Graham so far. Luckily, his young cornerback duo benefited immensely by being played to their strengths.
There’s still room to grow for this Raiders duo
Despite the love they both received, I firmly believe that there is always room to grow. As for Hobbs, I think he is very technical and has above average instructions on and off the ball. That being said, Hobbs can sometimes get too aggressive mid-round. Carrying two defensive penalties against Arizona is a tough pill to swallow because he was otherwise fantastic. An easy problem to fix, but something that’s notable enough to need some work.
On the other hand, Amik has more of an uphill battle, as his problem stems from his natural constitution. Clocking in at 5’8″, Amik has struggled against tall receivers throughout his career. Despite this, Amik showed excellent skill and off-the-ball technique in the first two games. He even used his instincts to draw Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray into a bad interception.
Raider Nation should expect the increased playing time and experience to benefit both Hobbs and Robertson in their respective development. The Raiders should also feel their cornerback depth is in good hands with this duo, unlike some other positional groups.
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*Top Photo: Official Raiders YouTube Channel
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