There’s plenty to be excited about with regard to what defensive coordinator Paul Guenther is bringing to the Oakland Raiders this year. But while I’m buying into to him, there’s one player he’s trying to sell these days that I just won’t buy. Reggie Nelson has been a part of the problem on the Raider defense since he’s been there.
Even in his Pro Bowl year in 2016, he often arrived just in time to see a deep ball get completed. And of his five interceptions that year, two, if not three, went through another player’s hands first. The fact that he turns 35 in September makes me believe in him less. As Levi Damien put it a few days ago, he’s no Charles Woodson at that advanced age.
Woodson had the range of a young man and the instincts of a player playing in years 16, 17 and 18. Remember, the Raiders were no better at the cornerback position when he was here and weren’t coached any better than they were last year. And when quarterbacks challenged him deep, he made them pay with amazing interceptions. So Guenther implying that Nelson’s poor 2017 was due to coaching sounds like an excuse. Not to say Ken Norton Jr. helped him a whole lot but a lot of it was on Nelson.
Like most everyone else, I initially assumed Nelson was brought back because he knew the system and could help teach it. This was supposed to be 2016 1st-round pick Karl Joseph’s time to play free safety, his natural position. And 2017 2nd-round pick Obi Melifonwu was supposed to erase tight ends with his size and athletic ability at strong safety. But Melifonwu has been hurt and it sounds like Guenther wants the youngster to compete for and earn his spot.
“These guys are fighting for jobs,” Guenther said when talking about him at OTAs. “At this point and time when everything is new, I’m new here, so I told them I don’t care what happened in the past. It’s I’m going to keep the best 22, 23 guys that are here that I think can help us win. Again, he’s out there. He’s starting to work, which is good to see because he needs to. He needs to be out there playing and not in the training room. It’s good to see that he’s back out there.”
One would hope he’s just trying to make Melifonwu get out there and earn his spot. Nelson starting at any of the safety spots for the Raiders this year is a scary thought.
Who do you want to see start at the safety spots in 2018?
This poll is closed
Obi Melifonwu and Karl Joseph
Karl Joseph and Reggie Nelson
Karl Joseph and whomever