Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Breakout Player: FS Reggie Nelson (Jaguars)

With the 21st overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars selected free safety "The Eraser" from the University of Florida. The 5'11'' 198 lb Reggie Nelson earned his nickname because of his ability to erase mistakes and blown assignments on defense. After two years starting for the Gators, Nelson became a team captain and finished his junior year with 51 tackles and 5 interceptions; leading his team to their first SEC title in six years and their first BCS National Championship with a 41-14 victory over #1 ranked Ohio State.

The Jaguars had a huge gap to fill in the secondary after losing starting defensive backs Deon Grant and Pro Bowler Donovan Darius entering last season. Nelson earned the starting job Week 2, playing for one of the best defenses in the league and finished with 63 total tackles (58 solo), 1 sack, 1 forced fumble and 5 interceptions. His INT total tied him for the most in the league by a rookie. Nelson also played a key role to both of the Jaguars playoff games with a combined 9 tackles (7 solo) in the win against the Steelers and the loss to the Patriots.

When watching Nelson, he is a very good athlete who is able to make plays all over the field against the run and pass. He uses quick feet and good instincts to act a center fielder in the defense and loves to lay a hit on the offensive ball carriers. He has great closing speed and is able to understand his role in various defensive coverages. He is patient on the point of attack yet aggressive and possesses the hands to make tough interceptions. While Nelson rarely makes any big errors, hence the nickname the eraser, he can sometimes be too aggressive in his tackling techniques and lose extra yards. He lacks ideal size to be your prototypical NFL safety but has proved his critics wrong by consistently making plays in a tough AFC Conference. Overall he is a competitive football player that will continue to make an impact on the Jaguars defense.

What are some factors that will help lead Nelson to a breakout year in 2008?

1) Jaguars Defense Nelson had the luxury of seeing significant playing time in his rookie season for a well experienced defense. A full offseason to prepare as the returning starter will do wonders for a player that needs time to fully learn and digest defensive schemes. While the team lost starting DT Marcus Stroud (Bills) and DE Bobby McCray (Saints), they added CB Drayton Florence (Chargers) and top draft picks DE Derrick Harvey (Florida) and LB Quentin Groves (Auburn). The Jaguars finished 10th in the league in total defense and 4th in total interceptions (20) in 2007.

2) New Defensive Coordinator With DC Mike Smith taking the Head Coaching gig with the Atlanta Falcons, the Jaguars signed veteran defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (Redskins) to lead the defense in 2008. In five of the last eight years, Williams' defenses have ranked in the top 10 in the league - including three top three's in the past five years - with three different teams. He is a major factor in the success of the late FS Sean Taylor and current Redskins SS LaRon Landry. Williams will bring an aggressive outlook to the Jaguars secondary, which should fit in well with Nelson's skills and mindset. Williams will help turn Nelson into one of the elite safeties in the league.

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