Reggie Nelson drew the ire of RaiderNation for a lackluster 2017 campaign. A year after snagging five interceptions to go along with 12 passes defensed, the veteran safety struggled last season. A sigh of relief was audibly heard when Nelson wasn’t re-signed. However, a collective groan bellowed when the Raiders brought the 34-year-old back on a $2.5 million, one-year deal.
The notable difference this year, however, is Oakland’s new defensive coordinator, Paul Guenther. He orchestrated a Cincinnati Bengals defense that afforded Nelson the opportunity to snag 23 interceptions and 61 passes defensed in six years.
Will we see a Nelson resurgence in Oakland under Guenther?
The pair are intent on making it happen. Guenther surely hasn’t lost any confidence in the aging safety. “Reggie knows our system inside and out,” Guenther told The Athletic. “Reggie is the kind of guy if you tell him what to do and how to do it, he is going to do it exactly how you want him to do it. If there is any gray area in there, then maybe he is not going to be as effective.”
Guenther added playing 99 percent of the snaps played a part in Nelson’s dwindling effectiveness, but harping on clear-cut direction and no ambiguity is an eye-opener. Reason being, Nelson played in all the Raiders defensive snaps in 2016, a season where he was highly effective even at age 33.
With head coach Jon Gruden pinpointing veteran presence as highly important in the Raiders locker room, Nelson is going to make the 53-man roster — like it or not.
Nelson rotates in with the first-team unit with Marcus Gilchrist and Karl Joseph. Behind those three is a safety spot in flux, apparently. 2017 second-rounder Obi Melifonwu’s inability to gain a clean bill of health early has put him behind the eight ball. While core special teamer Erik Harris has opened Gruden’s eyes.
Nelson’s familiarity and veteran leadership factors in. His assimilation to the Guenther defense isn’t difficult, he’s already passing down knowledge to teammates.
“I’m learning everyday. Having guys like Reggie and more veteran guys in previous years has helped me also,” Joseph said. “Guys like Emmanuel (Lamur), to hear those guys, to hear veteran linebackers that know that defense helps a lot.”
Nelson’s also as hungry as ever to prove 2017 was an awful aberration.
“It worked out in favor for me to be a part of this team and this organization again compared to the situation last year,” Nelson said. “So, I’m enjoying the process, to be honest with you — out there competing every day just like everybody else is.”