The move to cut Michael Crabtree this offseason and sign Jordy Nelson to replace him drew some criticism this offseason. Mostly because Crabtree was 30-years-old and was Derek Carr’s most reliable target for the past three seasons, while Nelson was 33 and seen has having lost a step (or two).
Nothing we saw over the first 12 weeks of this season silenced that criticism. Nelson had 25 catches for 353 yards and 3 touchdowns while Crabtree had 45 catches for 500 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Then everything seemed to turn around for Nelson.
Over the last four games he has 29 catches which surpassed his catches total for the entire season before and his 308 yards nearly matched his receiving yards total as well. The team has pulled out two big wins during that span and Nelson’s contributions had a big part of that.
“He’s as good a player as you’ll ever get a chance to coach,” Gruden said of Nelson. “He’s so instinctive, so smart, so team oriented. He’s got close to 30 catches in the last four games, he’s healthy, he’s learned our offense, he’s learned how to play anywhere on the line. Third down, any down, he’s still a really good, quality wide receiver.”
This puts Nelson’s season total at 54 catches for 661 yards and 3 TD’s. Compared to Crabtree who has 52 catches for 587 yards and 3 TD’s.
For the sake of accuracy, it may be better to compare Nelson’s numbers to Crabtree’s numbers last season with Derek Carr when he had 58 catches for 618 yards and 8 touchdowns. That would mean Nelson has already surpassed Crabtree’s receiving numbers in the same number of games (14).
Also, to be fair, Nelson suffered a knee injury that slowed him down and caused him to miss a game. It was prior to that injury that Carr thought he and Nelson were coming along.
“It was really that Colts game when I felt we were ready to get it going and he ended up hitting his knee or whatever and he was out,” Carr said of Nelson. “But when he got healthy, ever since then, he’s a trustworthy guy that does things the right way and usually guys like that, the ball ends up finding them.”
Nelson’s numbers over the last four games average out to 116 catches for 1232 yards over a full 16-game season. That’s more than Michael Crabtree had in his best season in Oakland (1003). Though Nelson has not found the end zone nearly as much as the 8 per season Crabtree did.
This just serves to show that Nelson has played himself into seeing him as at least a lateral move to Crabtree and perhaps a slight upgrade in other areas such as locker room presence. The Raiders are just happy he is finding his footing on the team lately as it suggests he can continue to be an asset in the second year of his contract.