Raiders CB coach calls nickel Nate Hobbs ‘key to unlock our defense’

One of the hardest and perhaps most underrated positions in football is that of nickel cornerback. They typically line up in the slot and are responsible for covering the slot receiver as well as any other receiver who comes over the middle.

For a number of years the Raiders struggled to find a cornerback who could handle those duties. That was until they drafted Nate Hobbs. And since then he has proven to be invaluable in that role.

At times over the past two seasons, he’s also been asked to play the boundary. Mostly this was for lack of overall talent at the cornerback position. Which only serves to prove how valuable he has been to this defense.

“Nate is the key to unlock our defense,” said cornerbacks coach Ricky Manning Jr. “That nickel spot is very special. That star spot is very special. Being able to play inside and outside is a unique characteristic to have. Just like Michael Carter with the Jets last year, a pivotal piece of that defense, that’s what Nate Hobbs is. That’s what the star position has become. He’s the key to unlock our defense and he’s great at it. He’s going to continue to ascend and with his growth our defense grows. And it allows PG [Patrick Graham] our coordinator to call certain things because he can trust that Nate can get it done and get it communicated to everybody and we can work well together.”

Hobbs is entering his fourth season in the NFL. He came on strong from his first game as a rookie as the answer in the slot. His second season, he took a step back, in part due to injury, but also because they relied on him so heavily, that he played much of his snaps on the outside.

Last season, he was back in the slot the bulk of the time and led to career highs in pass breakups (7), tackles (86), and tackles for loss (six). The latter two led all Raiders defensive backs.

Story originally appeared on Raiders Wire