With their second pick in the recent NFL draft, the Raiders selected safety Obi Melifonwu. Then, in the seventh round, they picked another safety, Shalom Luani.
Clearly, the team wants to upgrade its play at the position.
Yet for now, veteran Reggie Nelson is still ticketed to start at free safety, with Melifonwu behind him. Second-year player Karl Joseph is the starter at strong safety, backed up by Keith McGill and Luani.
At 33, Nelson may not be as fast as he was when he broke into the league in 2007, but he’s not about to step aside for the younger players.
In his first season in Oakland, he overcame a rough start to turn in his second consecutive Pro Bowl season. He was in on 65 tackles, had five interceptions and had two fumble recoveries on a team that went 12-4 and earned a playoff berth for the first time since 2002.
Nelson said the fact the Raiders have brought in some younger players to challenge him isn’t anything new. It’s been going on his whole career, and he’s ready for the challenge.
“You (have to) fight with all these young guys,” Nelson told a writer with the team’s website this week. Nelson and his teammates are going through organized team activities (OTAs). “When they get drafted, your job is already in jeopardy. It’s up to you go keep doing the little things right, and competing. Coach Jack (Del Rio) always preaches here. He wants to see competing. That’s it. He wants to compete, and you’ll get your fair shot. If you beat him out, you beat him out.
“It’s all about doing your job, and keep doing the little things, and at the same time, bringing along the guy next to you, because if something happens to you, you don’t want to skip a beat at all. You can’t be too selfish in this league.”