Friday, Oct. 27, 2023 | 2 a.m.
Before participating in his first practice in a month, Nate Hobbs addressed his Raiders teammates Thursday afternoon at the team’s Henderson headquarters.
The 24-year-old cornerback feels some ownership after three years with the franchise and found what he watched from afar in Sunday’s 30-12 loss to the Bears unacceptable. It wasn’t so much the defeat that bothered Hobbs — that happens to even the best teams in the NFL — but rather the lack of “juice” he witnessed.
“I feel like we need more consistent energy,” Hobbs said. “We just need to show each other that we care if bro makes a play. We’ve got to run over there and celebrate with him because it’s contagious.”
Hobbs is among the most energetic players on the roster, but he’s been unable to show as much even on the sidelines since hurting his ankle in a Week 3 loss to the Steelers. The injury has kept him out ever since and he remained limited in Thursday’s practice.
Hobbs could be setting up to get a “questionable” tag going into the Week 8 Monday Night Football game where the Raiders (3-4) travel to play the Detroit Lions (5-2), but he says he’s plans to play.
Las Vegas’ defense could certainly use him.
Detroit might have the best offense Las Vegas has seen all year, or at least the best since a Week 2 game at Buffalo that didn’t go so well. Even with Hobbs playing in full, the Bills walloped the Raiders 38-10.
“I don’t want to say measuring stick, but it’s a great opportunity, a great challenge,” Hobbs said of facing the Lions. “We definitely feel like we can be a great unit when we’re hitting on all cylinders and we’re in rhythm.”
In his limited time on the field this season, Hobbs has looked like the Raiders’ best player in coverage. The numbers also back it up as he’s the 22nd rated cornerback in the league this season by Pro Football Focus’ grading metric.
Hobbs bounced between inside and outside corner spots last year but has played exclusively in the slot this season, a position that makes him more vital going up against the Lions. It means he’ll be primarily matched up against Detroit top receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, who’s coming off back-to-back games with more than 100 yards receiving.
“I’m feeling good,” Hobbs said. “I want to go out there and give it my all.”
The Raiders’ defense had started to look like the strength of the team during a two-game winning streak, but that screeched to a halt with arguably the unit’s worst performance of the year in Chicago. Las Vegas coach Josh McDaniels said he didn’t think effort was part of the issue, but there were several plays where the Raiders didn’t look fully engaged.
They had a season-high 13 missed tackles, including one moment that went viral where cornerback Marcus Peters appeared to pass on an opportunity to make an open-field tackle.
“There are several plays, whoever it is, that we want back,” defensive coordinator Patrick Graham said. “There are calls I want back, so to single out one person with the result like that, I’m not with that. That’s just not me. It’s a collective, there’s 11 people playing defense and we’ve got to play with great effort each play.”
No one has ever questioned Hobbs’ desire. He made a fiery speech about paying off the Raiders for giving him a chance out of University of Illinois as a fifth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and immediately started to live up to the promise.
Hobbs had a standout rookie season and seemed to be poised for an even larger breakout last year. Then injuries intervened.
Hobbs broke his wrist in a Monday Night Football loss at the Kansas City Chiefs, and though he initially played through the pain, the injury required surgery afterwards and missed six games.
Hobbs had some good moments upon his return but never quite lived up to the hype he created in training camp by jumping at every chance to match up with then-newly signed receiver Davante Adams and sometimes winning those one-on-ones.
He praised reserves Tyler Hall, Amik Robertson and David Long for “playing great football” while he was gone this year, but said it’s been a “tough pill to swallow” to have now missed 10 of the Raiders’ last 19 games.
His eagerness to get back on the field was part of the reason why he felt compelled to speak his mind to the rest of the team on Thursday.
“Sometimes we all have something that we feel like we should have said in the moment and wishing we could have it back, and you don’t have a lot of days on this Earth, you don’t get a lot of time,” Hobbs said. “You don’t ever know how many times you can act on something. God put it on my heart. I feel like I’ve got to share it.”
Hobbs is ready to get back to letting his play doing the talking though. And, in his mind, there couldn’t be a better place for it to start than at Ford Field in Detroit on Monday.
“Just to be back with the guys for real, just the atmosphere coming back Monday Night is crazy,” Hobbs said. “It’s a hell of an atmosphere, hell of an opportunity.”