Aug 182010

Eagles CB Ellis Hobbs

August 18 Philadelphia Inquirer

Ellis Hobbs is bundled in contradiction.

A cornerback whose confidence walks right to the edge of cockiness but who refers to himself as a “dog” and finds motivation by picturing himself always chasing first, he uses doubters to thrive.

The Eagles are counting on Hobbs to continue defying easy categorization. The 5-foot-9 defender returning from neck surgery is being eyed as a solution for the team’s soft-pass defense.

So far, he has helped. Hobbs, now a starter, has had a strong training camp covering the Eagles’ fleet wide receivers and showed a willingness to be physical. In the six plays the Eagles‘ first-team defense had in Friday’s preseason win against the Jaguars, Hobbs made one tackle and assisted on another, at least partially answering questions about his willingness to hit after suffering a herniated disk in his neck last year.

He has been one of several surprises in a secondary that entered training camp with major questions. Rookie safety Nate Allen has learned quickly, veteran safety Quintin Mikell said he has focused more on his own game, instead of forcing himself to be a leader, and even Asante Samuel won praise for improving his tackling.

But much stiffer tests are coming for the group that finished 17th in pass defense last year.

On Friday, the Eagles face a Cincinnati Bengals offense that features Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens on the receiving end of Carson Palmer’s passes.

Coverage responsibilities will fall heavily on Hobbs, who, after two years starting for New England, failed to push Sheldon Brown in training camp last year and had his season ended by injury in Week 8.

Hobbs, whose interviews drip with defiance and insight, is out to make a point.

“This year you’ve got to have that dog in you,” he said. In a separate interview, he added: “Last year was definitely not a season that you can judge me off of.”

Sitting out half the season, Hobbs said, helped him appreciate the family side of his life, but also made him more determined to get the most of the “rented time” professional athletes have.

Eagles coaches acknowledge concern about Hobbs’ neck, even though the cornerback said he is medically cleared to play. They also realize that his height presents a potential liability.

After all, if you saw Hobbs on the street, you would hardly think “professional football player.” A small reporter can look him in the eye.

But in uniform, his calves are the giveaway: They look spring-loaded, providing the speed to chase down receivers and the burst to drive on passes that come his way. He also returns kickoffs.

On defense, Hobbs constantly talks to himself, pumping himself up or cursing when he gives up a reception.

Other times he mimes DJ moves, holding up against his helmet headphones only he can see and hear while scratching imaginary turntables.”

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