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2 rookies catching attention of Raiders veterans

Updated June 2, 2021 - 3:53 pm

As the Raiders continue with OTAs, two rookie defensive backs are catching the attention of their veteran teammates. One of whom is being counted on to provide an immediate lift for the club’s revamped defense.

Safety Trevon Moehrig, a second-round pick from TCU, has been everything the Raiders envisioned at this stage of his development and is on the fast track to claiming the starting job at free safety. podcast

The other is Nate Hobbs, a fifth-round pick from Illinois. The Raiders like his toughness and versatility. He’s expected to get a long look at the open slot cornerback position.

Moehrig continues to flash a smooth feel for the position and a beyond-his-age mature presence. The Raiders traded up in the second round to select him with the 43rd pick and have made it clear they expect him to win the starting job opposite strong safety Johnathan Abram.

“He has a very calm nature about him,” said Raiders tight end Darren Waller. “He doesn’t really get too flustered or all over the place or out of control. He seems very dialed in and on top of what he’s doing.”

He already has impressed his older teammates with demeanor and confidence.

“I feel like he’s going to be really talented,” said Raiders cornerback Trayvon Mullen. “He practices hard. He goes through his drills really well. I like the way he approaches practice.”

Other observations from Wednesday’s workout:

Moreau healthy, explosive

The Raiders’ tight end room looks a bit different, with veteran Jason Witten no longer on the roster. While Darren Waller remains the focal point of the passing attack, the absence of Witten sets up a much bigger role for Foster Moreau.

The third-year tight end has been a bright spot during OTAs and looks completely healthy after suffering a serious knee injury late in his rookie season. At the time of the injury, the former LSU standout was coming into his own with five touchdowns over his first 13 games. Most of his second season was devoted to getting back to full strength. That was part of the reason the Raiders added Witten to the roster.

With Raiders head coach Jon Gruden saying he plans to create a bigger role for Moreau, this could be a breakout season for him.

“His explosiveness just continues to increase every time we come back together as a team, just from working with him in the offseason,” Waller said. “He’s working hard. He’s even pushing me the way that he works and his attention to detail.”

After finishing with 21 catches for 174 yards as a rookie, Moreau had seven catches for 140 yards in his second season. He is already showing signs he could be in line for a much bigger role this season.

“He looks a lot more fluid, and he’s just continuing on that path to being the player that I know he can be,” Waller said. “He can be an extremely vital component to this offense.”

Koonce turns heads

With Yannick Ngakoue not on hand at OTAs, rookie Malcolm Koonce has stepped into the spotlight and is showing an advanced proficiency in the pass rush.

Koonce, a third-round pick out of Buffalo, has not yet signed his contract but is opting to participate in OTAs nonetheless. He joins Moehrig as a fellow unsigned draft pick taking part in the in-person, on-field phase of the offseason program.

Divine Deablo, a third-round pick from Virginia Tech, was not on the field Wednesday nor was he on the field when the media had access last Wednesday. A person with knowledge of the situation indicated Deablo has been present at the Raiders’ facility in Henderson during the offseason and rookie programs,

Koonce has shown a natural feel in pass rush drills, showing good get-off in addition to a handful of different moves. On a handful of reps, he has also shown good footwork in dropping off the line of scrimmage in pass coverage.

The advanced feel for the pass rush is what compelled the Raiders to select Koonce, who had 13 sacks over his last 17 college games. That could get him on the field early in his career as a situational pass rusher.

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore onTwitter.

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