NFL

Raiders’ Guenther Believes in Reggie Nelson

Veteran safety has thrived with Guenther in the past and will compete for a job at safety and be a mentor for young players Joseph, Melifonwu and Gilchrist

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Safety Reggie Nelson had a disappointing season for the Raiders in 2017, but new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther expects him to bounce back.

Guenther, who also coached the Cincinnati Bengals defense when Nelson had his best seasons, believes the free safety, going into his 12th NFL season at age 34, will be important on the field and off, as a veteran mentor for young safeties such as Karl Joseph, Obi Melifonwu and Marcus Gilchrist. Guenther believes Nelson may not have been as effective in 2017 under the defensive scheme in place under head coach Jack Del Rio.

“Reggie knows our system inside and out,” Guenther told Vic Tafur of 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.”

One way to increase his level of performance might be to involve him in a rotation at safety, playing Nelson in specific situations where his strengths will shine best.

“Reggie played 99 percent of the snaps last year,” Guenther told Tafur. “We’re not going to have guys playing 99 percent of the snaps. Your goal is to play in this package or that package.”

Nelson could have left as a free agent after the 2017 season, and many expected the team would let him walk. Instead, Oakland gave Nelson a one-year contract extension. As Ian Rapoport of NFL.com noted at the time in late March, Nelson’s return might be as much as a mentor as player. Wrote Rapoport: “(Nelson is) someone to help teach DC Paul Guenther’s system.”

Certainly, Nelson has thrived with Guenther previously. In 2015 with Guenther in Cincinnati, Nelson had eight interceptions to lead the NFL.

Nelson and the Raiders are expected to report for the start of training camp on July 25.

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