With his signature dreads and his penchant for being a ballhawk , Reggie Nelson quickly earned the Predator moniker. When he joined the Oakland Raiders before the 2016 season, the title seemed natural.
Five interceptions, 12 pass breakups, and a Pro Bowl nod will surely earn you the name Predator. Nevertheless, when that is followed up by a lackluster one interception campaign with pass deflections halved, the hunt must end. And for Nelson, who turns 35 on September 21, that end needs to happen now. While he’s still got the brains, he doesn’t have the legs. The former first-round pick started before Monday night’s season opener against the Los Angeles Rams. Moreover, the collective groan from the Raiders’ fanbase became amplified by a dismal performance.
Slow to the attack and a step late on reacting to receivers, Nelson appeared old. While 34 isn’t ancient, but in a physically demanding NFL. Despite knowing Paul Guenther’s scheme like the back of his hand, Nelson struggled. Instead, the Rams and quarterback Jared Goff delivered a backhand to Nelson and the rest of the Raiders defense.
Surely, a consistent and harrier pass rush would have made a difference, but absent that, it’s evident Nelson no longer has the wheels to kick it into gear to make up for that missing component. Instead of having younger fresh legs — Karl Joseph — or a bigger and inspired presence — Erik Harris — at safety alongside Marcus Gilchrist, the Raiders went with experience against a complicated Rams offense.
The only thing not complex is the fact Nelson does not seem his old self. An aged veteran as a sounding board isn’t a bad thing. Many times, teams view veterans as on-field coaches. In this case, Nelson should remain a resource off the field. Unlike fellow greybeard Leon Hall (who also cut his teeth in the Guenther system), Nelson’s reaction times felt delayed. In addition, those lapses, became too great for the Raiders to overcome.
Surely Joseph and/or Harris will perform better thanno worse than what Nelson exhibited in the season opener, no?