Sinking Nelson: No more CB or nickel

May, 3, 2010
5/03/10
7:30
AM ET
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- I spent a couple of minutes chatting with Reggie Nelson, the Jaguars’ safety who’s understandably under fire.

Some of it will appear here at a later date in a piece I am planning, but I thought this part of it required use now.

[+] EnlargeReggie Nelson
Fernando Medina/US PresswireJaguars safety Reggie Nelson faced his share of criticism for his play last season.
Nelson admitted he had a poor season in 2009, when he was benched at the end of the season, and didn’t make excuses about it.

“I had mistakes last year, I did,” he said. “I’ve watched film since I’ve been here in February and I can own up and say, ‘Yes, I did blow some coverages. Yes, I did miss tackles.’ That’s something I’ve looked at. I have to correct them; don’t go backwards, go forward.”

We also talked about the way the team used him.

In the Jaguars' nickel package, he frequently moved to nickel corner, lining up against a slot receiver with Gerald Alexander taking his place at free safety. And the team thought enough of Nelson's work there, and so little of its other options, that when Rashean Mathis couldn’t play at Tennessee, the Jaguars started Nelson at left corner.

He got torched in that game by the Titans, then the media. And after the lousy year, he's seen -- fairly -- as one of the team’s major offseason issues, another first-round bust. Through his third season, he got lost in coverage far too often and his tackling was, at times, outrageously bad.

The team’s use of him as a moveable piece was probably not the best idea, and he said he won’t be part of it again.

“You’ve got to look at it: I played safety, corner, nickel, so many different positions,” he said. “Most players would be like, ‘Oh, no, I’m not doing that, y’all drafted me for this.’ That’s not me, I want to win. I took that challenge, I played corner, I played nickel. I am a competitive guy. ... They made their decision and I’ve got to live with it.”

I asked him if he sees any more work at nickel or corner ahead.

“The way things happened last year, I don’t think I’d do it,” he said. “I will not do it. I tried that last year. It didn’t work. I don’t think it was fair to me. I would not go back. You live and you lean.”

But GM Gene Smith said he believes Nelson would do whatever is asked.

“He would do it for the team,” Smith said. “Any player, if you ask him what position do you want to play, he’d be very honest with you. But if a guy going to be a backup, you sit him down and you say to help the team we need you to play here. There is no player that has an opportunity to get on the field that selfish that would say no.

“Now if you ask him what position he would rather play, I get confident he’d say safety. But when you get into a season and you start having injuries and you try to get your best players on the field or if someone is a backup and has a chance to step out there, I don’t know of a player that was that selfish in a team sport that wouldn’t do something for the good of the cause, and he did last year.”

Though he was with the starters the second day of minicamp, Nelson said the team does not view him as a starter now and he knows nothing will be given to him.

He's very much on the hot seat. I don’t envision him getting cut, because the team has minimal alternatives and remains thin in the secondary. Alexander, Anthony Smith, Sean Considine, and Courtney Greene are largely viewed by people around the league as, in NFL vernacular, "just guys." (If Darren Sharper winds up here, things would change.) But if Nelson doesn’t make a dramatic turnaround, this will be his swan song for sure.

“It’s their decision, regardless,” Nelson said. “The only thing I can do is show up and play football.”

Stay tuned for more on Nelson later in the offseason.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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