Jordy Nelson is 33 and coming off perhaps the worst season of his career, yet the new wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders is off to a great start in training camp.
The 6-foot-3 former Packers standout has shown so far in one-on-one and team drills that he can still play at the level he did for all those years catching passes from Aaron Rodgers. In 2014 and 2016, Nelson (who missed 2015 with an injury) had seasons of 98 and 97 catches, and four times from 2011 through 2016 he had more than 1,200 receiving yards. In 2014 and 2016 he had a combined 27 touchdowns.
Now, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is excited by what he sees from Nelson in summer practices.
“I think there’s a lot of guys that are like him in different sports that are able to play at a high level no matter how old they are,” Gruden told Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle, after watching Nelson make several good plays in Wednesday workouts. “I think he’s proven that since he’s been here. I was really pleased with him today. He’s a difference-maker for us.”
As Kawahara noted, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr earlier in training camp wondered why the Packers had released such a talented receiver. With the Raiders, Nelson has shown good speed, great hands and an ability to get open.
Said Carr to reporters: “The thing that you hear about that he can’t run anymore, that’s false. 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 DBs are scared about what he can do over the top, he’s still Jordy Nelson. That’s for sure.”
Raiders safety Reggie Nelson told Kawahara that “Jordy Nelson is Jordy Nelson. Working hard, great runner and hard to guard. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do.”
The addition of Nelson and former Steeler Martavis Bryant gives the Raiders a fine trio of wideouts, along with Amari Cooper.
The Raiders are set to play their first exhibition game Aug. 10 vs. the Detroit Lions at the Coliseum.