Las Vegas Raiders defensive backs Trevon Moehrig and Nate Hobbs

Same Career, Different Appreciation: Beloved Nate Hobbs, Doubted Trevon Moehrig, And Their Nearly-Identical Careers As Raiders

Drafted by the Las Vegas Raiders in round two of the 2021 NFL Draft, safety Trevon Moehrig has been a day-one starter in Las Vegas’ secondary. During his rookie campaign, Moehrig played the same coverage-safety role that led him to win the Jim Thorpe Award in 2020. This past season, now in year-two of his NFL career, Moehrig swapped to a utility role. Instead of playing the free safety position he was accustomed to, the former TCU defensive back spent his ’22 season at strong safety. Teammate Nate Hobbs shares a similar story.

After a notable rookie campaign, the move to unfamiliar territory left Moehrig struggling.

Raiders cornerback Nate Hobbs has had an identical career-path as Moehrig. In 2021, during Hobbs rookie season, the Illinois alum was glued to the slot. Both of the two defensive backs enjoyed a promising rookie campaign, seemingly cementing themselves as starters at their positions for years to come. Like Moehrig, instead of staying at the position he thrived in, Hobbs was asked to do something he hadn’t done in the NFL before.

Also like Moehrig, Hobbs had a miserable season at his new position.

There is one notable difference between the pair, however. When it comes to Hobbs’ lackluster ’22 campaign, Raider Nation is quick to remind fans of the position change. Since Hobbs hadn’t played outside cornerback at the pro-level before, his struggles were seen as acceptable and understandable. On the other side of things, Moehrig – who also played an entirely new position last season – gets no excuse.

While Hobbs is seen as a hero, Moehrig is viewed as a liability. What’s up with that?

Meet: Las Vegas Raiders’ Safety Trevon Moehrig

Coming into the NFL, Moehrig was considered a top-tier free safety prospect. In his last two college seasons, the TCU defensive back totaled six interceptions and 20 pass breakups. The only real concern was the health of his back, which he injured while training in the weeks leading up to the draft.

As NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport noted, Moehrig wore tape on his back during his pre-draft workout. Scouts league-wide noticed, and an MRI later revealed some issues. As a result, Moehrig fell to pick 43, where the Raiders traded up to grab him.

To former Raiders’ general manager Mike Mayock, Moehrig’s back was well worth taking a chance on. Mayock rolled the Vegas dice, and the house won; not only did Moehrig play all 17 contests in 2021, but the second-round draft pick logged more snaps at free safety than any player in the NFL.

Beyond proving to be a pillar of health during his rookie campaign, Moehrig also showed exactly why scouts and analysts praised his abilities coming out of college.

With a coverage grade of 77.7, Moehrig was the 14th-highest graded safety in coverage.

When targeted, the first-year safety allowed a passer rating of 99.2. His 56.3% completion percentage allowed ranked 12th-lowest among all safeties who were targeted at least 10 times, and his 31% forced incompletion percentage ranked 4th-highest among safeties with four or more targets.

A successful rookie campaign indeed.

This past year, during his sophomore season, the Raiders’ new regime added Duron Harmon to the roster. With the new addition to the secondary, Moehrig was forced to play a utility role for the first time – a dreadful experience for both him and Raider Nation.

Much the same as how Hobbs was placed on the outside, and struggled mightily.

A trip to unfamiliar territory ends in struggle

After playing a league-high 1,116 snaps at free safety in 2021 through both the regular and postseason, Moehrig’s snaps at free safety fell to 484 in 2022. The second-year safety totaled 210 snaps in the box with an additional 187 at cornerback. To give some perspective, Moehrig tallied less than 100 snaps both in the box and at cornerback combined in 2021.

It’s not something fans often think about, but the difference between free safety and strong safety is generally other-worldly. Traditionally, your free safety offers the last line of defense against opposing offenses. Meanwhile, a strong safety – or utility safety – typically does a little bit of everything. Sometimes a defensive coordinator uses their strong safety in the box, and sometimes they drop them into coverage as a deep safety. Other times a strong safety helps out in the slot or gets used as an additional pass-rusher.

It’s hard to think of a position on defense that requires a player to do more than strong safety. After all, it’s not a coincidence that Moehrig totaled at least 180 snaps in the box, playing deep, and at cornerback, respectively. Can you imagine being glued to deep-safety one year, then the next be asked to do anything and everything?

Moehrig’s struggles in 2022 make much more sense now; don’t they? It’s no wonder the 23-year-old saw his coverage grade drop to 49.0, being responsible for an opposing quarterback rating of 132.7 when targeted. The silver lining: Moehrig’s 72.5% allowed completion percentage was the lowest among Raiders safeties in 2022.

Remember that sky-high 31% forced incompletion percentage from 2021? Although Moehrig didn’t quite reach that mark, his 20% of forced incompletions ranked second-highest on the Raiders’ roster, behind only Tyler Hall. Even through his struggles, Moehrig still proved his coverage skills are excellent.

You aren’t giving Nate Hobbs a hard time; do the same with Moehrig

Both Nate Hobbs and Trevon Moehrig explored unfamiliar territory in 2022. Both of the Raiders defensive backs looked like different players as a result. If you aren’t giving Nate Hobbs a hard time – and I know you aren’t, Raider Nation – don’t give Moehrig one.

Despite his struggles last season, Moehrig posted numbers that Hobbs has yet to achieve. Moehrig’s 20% forced incompletion percentage in 2022 beats Hobbs’ career-high of 8%. Furthermore, Moehrig’s allowed completion percentage of 72.5% is superior to Hobbs’ 72.7% career-best. At his worst, the TCU alum’s coverage skills shined brighter than Hobbs’ at his brightest. To say nothing of Moehrig doing this while playing everywhere on the field throughout the season.

Don’t get the wrong idea – by no means is any of this negative energy towards Hobbs. How could it be? If I was trying to sell you on Moehrig’s abilities, why would Hobbs be the bar if I didn’t view him as a fine player?

Nate Hobbs is a potential cornerstone defensive back; so is Trevon Moehrig.

One critique fans have of Moehrig is he doesn’t make ‘game-changing plays’, but that’s simply not true; what Raider Nation actually mean is he doesn’t get as many interceptions as they’d like to see. With four dropped interceptions since coming into the NFL, there’s definitely work to be done in that area. However, fans are glossing over the key part here – Moehrig has put himself into great positions, nearly intercepting four additional passes.

Since 2021, no other Raider has dropped more than one interception, nor does any Raider have more than two interceptions in this timeframe. Ultimately, that means Moehrig’s four dropped interceptions alone have put him in more chances to intercept balls than any other player on the Raiders’ roster since he was drafted.

That’s a good thing.

Saving the best for last

It’s only natural a player who’s spent their career playing deep-safety would have a tough time transitioning to such a versatile role. The harsh truth is, it didn’t make much sense to use Moehrig this way in the first place.

Perhaps that’s exactly why general manager Dave Ziegler agreed to terms with safety Marcus Epps in free agency.

With 1,239 snaps last season – including the playoffs – Epps logged more total snaps than any player on Philadelphia’s defense. Although his 786 snaps at free safety in 2022 led all Eagles safeties by a noticeable amount, his 296 snaps in the box also stood as a team-high at the position. Add in the 147 snaps Epps tallied at corner, and you get quite the versatile safety.

Putting two-and-two together, it only makes sense Epps will play the utility role this upcoming season. For Moehrig, this means back to free safety, where he’s thrived his entire football career.

Raiders secondary: Marcus Epps at strong safety makes the most sense for both Trevon Moehrig and himself

It doesn’t make too much sense for Epps to be the deep-safety regardless. Moehrig’s presence aside, the now-former Eagle has never been a coverage specialist. In 2022, Epps allowed a passer rating of 145.3 when targeted. Add a 78.4 completion percentage allowed, and it’s no wonder Pro Football Focus gave the 27-year-old a coverage grade of 47.5.

In fact, Epps’ career-best completion percentage allowed was 76.2%; a number higher than Moehrig allowed last season. However, in 2020 Epps was responsible for an outstanding 59.5 passer rating when targeted.

Epps has also ended each of his last two seasons with a run grade of at least 81.0. Moehrig, on the other hand, has failed to reach 65.0 in any year of his pro-career. It makes too much sense to keep Epps at the utility-safety role he thrives in. As a bonus, such a move allows Moehrig to return to the coverage role he’s played his entire career.

All-in-all, look out for a strong 2023 campaign from Trevon Moehrig. Don’t be surprised if Nate Hobbs bounced back, either.

*Top Photo: Raiders Official Website

Raiders: What Would A Hunter Renfrow Trade Package Look Like?

Join The Ramble Email List

error: Nice Try!
Subscribe to RaiderRamble

Get updates from RaiderRamble via email:

Join 6,230 other subscribers