For fans and media alike, the long summer only intensifies the thirst for actual football. This season, the Raiders appear to have solved many problems while newer issues arise. For instance, the team still does not seem to know what exactly Obi Melifonwu is or is not. In addition, the rather large pool of secondary depth added rookie Nick Nelson to the fold. For answers, FPC Raiders writers Ray Aspuria and Chris Simmons step up.
Where can Obi contribute this year? Has his injury history already tainted him on Gruden’s eyes?
It is hard to say how much influence Obi does or does not have without being in the meeting rooms. With that in mind to me, it seems the most important place Obi can help right now is on special teams. If he can make around 15 special teams tackles AND play a few snaps a game as a nickel or dime back then he will already have contributed more than either he or Conley did all season. Anything less than that is an abject failure no matter how it happens or does not.
If Reggie Nelson logs significant playing time as a starter, Obi will get snaps as a reserve/package player. Nelson is an aging vet who is in the twilight of his career. He does not have the size and speed to hang with the super freak athletic tight ends while Obi does. Trouble is, Melifonwu needs to combine his physical gifts with the proper football mind.
His lack of work in OTAs drew the ire of Gruden, but Obi is still young and has the requisite size and speed new DC Paul Guenther had at the position in the past.
When Nick Nelson heals, where will he excel?
A sticky and tricky man-to-man cover guy on the outside and in the slot. Nelson’s lack of interceptions is a concern, but he was a harrier at CB in college and was a pass breakup machine.
He also made an impact as a punt returner in college and the easiest route to an NFL 53-man roster is special teams work.
Nelson has a good chance to crack the DB rotation as a nickel or dime as well. In many ways, he and Obi represent the old and the new in that they are likely competing for snaps directly. If Nelson gets healthy and has a strong camp that may increase further speculation regarding Obi’s status.
Given these points, the Raiders need to sort out their vast secondary soon rather than later.