It's no secret that Reggie Nelson isn't exactly a fan favorite in Jacksonville, as many fans feel that the safety position is one of the biggest weaknesses on the Jaguars roster. Since a solid rookie season, Nelson's play has steadily declined to the point where the thought of trading the former first round pick seems appealing to many fans. Well as of now, Gene Smith and the Jaguars staff have made no moves to address the position this offseason or move Nelson, so it appears that Reggie will be receiving another chance to prove himself in teal.
What the Jaguars addressed instead was their atrocious pass rush by signing Packers DE Aaron Kampman in free agency and selecting four defensive lineman with their first four selections. The assumed result is that the Jaguars will improve upon a pass rush that produced a league worst 14 sacks.
If the Jaguars succeeded this offseason in adding players that will improve the pass rush, then Reggie Nelson has ran out of excuses for his poor play in Jacksonville. This year could be the last chance for Nelson to prove his worth in Jacksonville.
In 2007, Reggie Nelson was a rookie and produced like one that was on his way towards becoming a perennial Pro Bowler. He was an instant starter and finished the season with 5 interceptions and 11 passes defended earning him a spot on the All-Rookie team. Now just two years later, Nelson is regarded as a weak spot on the roster and widely considered to be someone who should be traded or cut. In 2008 and 2009 combined, Nelson has recorded 2 interceptions and 9 passes defended.
A similar decline was seen by the Jaguars pass rush. In 2007 the Jaguars finished with 37 sacks which placed them in the top 10 in the NFL. In 2008 that number dropped to 29, dropping them to 20th in the NFL. Finally in 2009, the sack total plummeted to an awful 14 that earned them the title as NFL's worst pass rush.
So what is to blame for what seems to be a regression in Nelson's play? Did the lack of a pass rush make Nelson a scapegoat for the Jaguars defense or has he actually regressed since his rookie season?
A look at the Pro Bowl safeties of 2008 and 2009 reveals the importance that a pass rush has for the successes of players in the secondary:
|Pro Bowl Safeties|
|Brian Dawkins - Den (2009)||39|
|Ed Reed - Balt (2009)||32|
|Jairus Byrd - Buf (2009)||32|
|Adrian Wilson - Ariz (2009)||43|
|Darren Sharper - NO (2009)||35|
|Nick Collins - GB (2009)||37|
|Troy Polamalu (2008)||51|
|Chris Hope (2008)||44|
|Ed Reed (2008)||34|
|Adrian Wilson - Ariz (2008)||31|
|Nick Collins - GB (2008)||27|
|Brian Dawkins - Phi (2008)||48|
Nick Collins is the only player on the list to have made the Pro Bowl on a team with under 30 sacks. At 14 sacks, is it fair to put the blame entirely on Nelson? If the remodeled pass rush was accomplished, Nelson will have reached the end of his rope. The answer will be found as to whether he's a regressing player or the victim of a poor pass rush.