Hey there Raider Nation, the poster formerly known as DWillSkills here. Thanks to the readers’ recommendations, Levi has asked me to come on board officially as a contributor. I hope to continue to provide high quality content for the best fans in all of sports. You can read my previous posts on free agent pick-ups Rashaan Melvin (here) and Tahir Whitehead (here) by clicking the links.
This week I’m switching to the offensive side of the ball and will break down the X-Factor as Gruden called him; Jordy Nelson and what fans can expect from him on Sundays.
Nelson fits right in as the #2 option to Amari Cooper— considering he was already the secondary option to Devante Adams who emerged as the franchise WR in Green Bay. Teams who run heavy man coverage will be betting on their 2nd corner being able to cover Nelson 1-on-1 — which will mostly net a positive gain for the Raiders offense. Nelson wins his match-ups with subtle hand-fighting and sets defenders up to bite on his moves throughout the game. Nelson is a true craftsman at his position and proved he can still produce high quality film in 2017.
Working the Middle
Nelson is surely not afraid to haul in catches in the teeth of the defense. I predict, due to his uncanny ability to get open over the middle, Nelson will quickly become a fan favorite. Nelson will make teams pay for leaving even the slightest crease open in their zone coverage. See Nelson’s TD week 1 vs Seattle where he runs past Earl Thomas and Bobby Wagner for a go ahead score, making it look easy against two All-Pros.
Moving the Sticks
Perhaps part of the X-Factor that Gruden spoke about in reference to Nelson was his ability to earn first downs.
From a statistical perspective, Nelson regularly has ranked near the top for first downs receiving each year since 2013. Whats impressive is that he was still able to haul in more first downs (38) in 2017 than both Cooper (28) and Crabtree (35) despite losing Rodgers week 6 to a shoulder injury.
Nelson is always aware of the sticks and it was a regular occurrence to see him gain crucial yardage and keep drives alive in 2017.
Drawing Pass Interference
Now, I’m not so sure the zebras will be as gracious towards Nelson now that he wears the infamous Silver & Black, but man did he make drawing pass interference look easy in 2017.
Much like a savvy scorer in basketball, Nelson senses contact and will lean, stumble, flail, and flop every time in order to call attention. Whilte it would be a welcome change to finally see a Raider in the referees’ favor, I won’t hold my breath. I still think its worth noting Nelson had one play like this almost every single game in 2017.
Areas for Concern
Nelson’s 2017 game tape is not without flaws. I was able to identify an alarming number of balls dislodged from Nelson’s fingertips this past season. This is the NFL we’re talking about and no receiver is immune to disruptive DB’s at the catch-point. Nelson had his fair share of drops this past season, here’s hoping that trend doesn’t once again continue in Oakland.
It’s probably safe to assume Nelson wasn’t brought to Oakland for his blocking prowess. I was honestly surprised to see how often Nelson’s blocking assignment got in on the tackle. Nelson may lay a key block once every few games but for the most part, this is what he put on tape in 2017; a lack of effort in the run game. I doubt this continues under Gruden, but don’t count on Nelson to bring a physical edge as a blocker.
Jordy Nelson is a welcome addition to the Raiders and I fully expect him to get on the same page with Carr and instantly become his favorite receiver. Nelson runs QB friendly routes and consistently gets open from multiple positions.
A consummate professional, Nelson’s impact on the field will be palpable by fans. I’m optimistic that with Gruden’s fingerprints, Carr’s touch, and Cooper drawing the best defensive back, Nelson should have productive year and hopefully become that X-Factor Gruden gushed about.