NAPA – Jordy Nelson has lost a step. He must've, if the Green Bay Packers let him go. That's the assumption, anyway. It's also the easy thing to say, impossible to know without seeing him in action.
The 33-year old Raiders receiver doesn't sweat that stuff, nor does he waste breath responding to it. Nelson's as even keel as they come, sublimely insulated from outside chatter.
Derek Carr has heard the talk, and begs to differ.
"The thing that you hear about that he can't run anymore, that's false," the franchise quarterback said. "I can tell you, he's one of the fastest skill guys that we have still. He can run. You see that by his route running. If he can win on underneath routes, which means DB's are scared about what he can do over the top. He's still Jordy Nelson, that's for sure."
The Jordy Nelson we all know was Aaron Rodgers' go-to guy, an All-Pro with four out of five seasons with 1,250 receiving yards or more. That run came before 2017, a rough year with just 482 yards and 9.1 yards per catch.
Green Bay demanded an outlandish pay cut and didn't negotiate beyond that, sending a Packers legend out the front door. The Raiders swooped, believing his brand of leadership and reliability would cure an ailing receiver corps.
"He's wired in. You can see why he was a security blanket for Aaron Rodgers all those years," head coach Jon Gruden said. "He can still run. He's proven to us he can still run. We can line him up anywhere we want and he can run any route we draw up. We're really encouraged by him."
The Raiders love Nelson's attention to detail. Amari Cooper will be the passing game's main weapon but Nelson sets the tone each practice. He's thorough in meetings and detail-oriented on the practice field.
"He's a seasoned player. He has such a presence in the receiver room, and he's won a Super Bowl," Cooper said. "So, any advice he has to offer, I'm all ears. He's always speaking up on the small things when it comes to small details and route running and things like that. I'm always listening."
That's the given part of the plan. He's going to lead by good example.
"Jordy has a vet presence that you can't coach," said tight end Jared Cook, who teamed with Nelson in Green Bay. "Just knowledge of the game, great route running, great speed, great timing. When I was in Green Bay, a lot of the guys looked up to Jordy and he played a huge role in our offense, not only as a player but as a person in our locker room. The all-around person that he is and his insights to the game that he brings is huge for our team, especially for the young receiving corps that we have."
The Raiders will get leadership, no doubt. They need more, though. They need vintage Nelson production as well, to offset Cooper and add to what should be a complete receiver corps if he goes right. Carr's confident he will, and that's after working with him since April.
"There's some guys that are good at running some routes, a guy will be there that's strong at catching the ball or whatever, he just gets open," Carr said. "He's very route savvy, he's very smart, he's always constantly on the coaches, ‘Yell the coverage out, I need to know my adjustment.' He's pushing the envelope that way as well. I can't say enough good things. I can't believe Green Bay let him go, but I'm glad he's here."