The Raiders have a pretty deep group of defensive backs this year which means it will be a tough task for any hopeful to break through and make this squad. Thus far in camp, Cory Nelms is making a strong push to have the coaching staff making a tough decision or two.
Nelms was originally an undrafted free agent out of Miami and spent his first season on the 49ers practice squad. He came over to the Raiders last year and spent most of last season on the Raiders' practice squad before being activated for one game late in the season when the Raiders secondary was depleted due to injuries.
The team liked what they saw from him last season and brought him back this year as well. The 49ers had liked what they saw from Nelms but he couldn't hang on in a deep cornerback group in San Francisco. He faces a similar situation in Oakland this year.
"You just have to come out here and work hard every day," Nelms said of trying to separate himself from the pack of Raiders DB's. "There's some great players out here and there's a lot of competition. So, you just come out here every day, do what you have to do, do your job and work hard."
His play has not gone unrecognized by Dennis Allen. The head coach and former defensive back spent most of his NFL coaching career as a defensive backs coach so he recognizes talent like Nelms when he sees it.
"Cory has worked extremely hard to put himself in position to make plays," said Dennis Allen. "He's worked in at corner and safety. That type of versatility always helps players, especially when you factor in his abilities on special teams. He, like a lot of guys who are fighting and battling to find a spot on the roster, the more you can do, the better it's going to be."
It is commonplace that NFL hopefuls must fill many different roles for a team. It's those guys who can be a jack of many trades who become the most valuable. But for most players it is a split between one position and special teams. It gets more complicated when it is two positions and special teams.
Nelms said he has mostly played at cornerback in his career. But his penchant for being around the ball is what has led Allen to try him at safety as well.
"Between the two, I would say safety is more of a mental position because you're the quarterback of the defense and you have to kind of make calls and make the adjustments based on the formations you see," said Nelms. "So, I would say safety is more mental and cornerback is definitely more physical because it's one-on-one, mano-a-mano."
He showed his skills very early in camp when on the first day, he was playing deep middle as Tyler Wilson threw for a previously wide open Conner Vernon along the left sideline. Nelms made his break before the ball was released and got to Vernon and dove in front of him to intercept the ball.
Since then, he hasn't been picking off balls left and right but he has been a noticeable presence in coverage both in the secondary and on special teams. Every team needs utility guys like that and if he can keep it up, it will be his ticket to the big show.