This past Sunday I had the privilege to watch the Oakland Raiders practice in Napa along with some of Raider Nation. There was a lot of good to takeaway from practice, but the emergence of J.J. Nelson was the biggest one of them all.
When wide receiver J.J. Nelson signed with the Oakland Raiders back in March it was thought as a simple depth chart addition. Nelson was coming off a down year during his stint with the Arizona Cardinals. He’s known mainly for his speed, so he’s a nice vertical threat that can take the top off of a defense.
However, when I visited the Raiders training camp practice on Sunday I didn’t see a simple depth chart addition player.
I saw a guy in J.J. Nelson that was seeing a good portion of the plays going his way. There were plays specifically designed for Nelson, which honestly is shocking to me. He was getting the some play designations and attention as Hunter Renfrow, so that should tells us his role.
At this point, Nelson is a lock to make the roster which judging from the recent depth chart release proves it so. JJ Nelson carved himself a role onto this offense, but what kind of a role is that?
Judging from his usage on Sunday, he looks to be utilized as a gadget player. There were screens being dialed up for him, fake sweeps and a lot of motions that he was involved in. Jon Gruden must love what he has been seeing from this guy and the fact that he can be used in these types of ways.
It feels like in order to be an elite offense in the NFL you must have a gadget type of a player. Someone who can do everything well and garner attention from a defense.
Well luckily for Nelson, defenses won’t be able to afford keying in on him with the likes of Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, Josh Jacobs and even Darren Waller if he lives up to the hype (he looked solid on Sunday). It’s good that Nelson has found himself a role on the offense because having at least three receivers who excel vertically makes it tough on a defense to guess who will be running down the field.
Will it be Brown, Williams or Nelson? It’s going to be a guessing game for defenses.
Best part about J.J. Nelson is that he is only 27 years old, so there may be some untapped potential there. You never know, I mean the fact that he was only signed in March yet looks poised for some production is telling. Nelson just may be the secret weapon on the Oakland Raiders offense. Other beat writers for the Raiders like Vic Tafur of The Athletic have been impressed with what Nelson has been doing in camp thus far.
Seeing it Sunday just gives a different interpretation. Come Week 1 against the Denver Broncos, I would advise to keep an eye on the young speedster. Maybe even this Saturday if he gets some run in the first preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams.