2011 NFL Preview: Buffalo Bills Have a Hidden Gem with Slot Wideout David Nelson
The Buffalo Bills are not in as bad of a position as they look to be—what with a 4-12 record, a career backup starting at quarterback and a non-flashy draft, it's hard to see the bright side.
Look further though, and these Bills are not as bad off as they seem.
After the magical Jim Kelly era, Buffalo has dealt with losing for years, and new management has been installed multiple times in the hopes of success.
Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey, Buffalo's newest swing at the curveball of NFL success, may not be a home run.
But what fans fail to realize is that these two aren't swinging for the fences...yet.
After Trent Edwards, J.P. Losman, Aaron Maybin, Dick Jauron and other Buffalo failures, it would be in Nix' and Gailey's best interests to just not strike out.
The Bills aren't deep in many positional groups, but one unit that stands out is the receiving corps.
Sure, the Bills don't have a star No. 1 wideout like their AFC East counterparts.
However, Buffalo has hitched their star on breakout performer Stevie Johnson, and such may prove to pay dividends one day.
After Johnson, Bills brass and Bills fans have placed unconditional faith in players of iffy talent level like Lee Evans, Marcus Easley and Naaman Roosevelt.
Going down the list, these players all have an amount of potential for 2011.
David Nelson, however, is a completely different story.
Nelson can be a real contributor as a slot receiver, outmuscling smaller corners and safeties and outrunning linebackers.
Watch here as Nelson runs a seam route up the middle of the field for a touchdown.
The defense is in an aggressive Cover 2 set, and the safeties cheat toward the middle of the end zone.
However, as Nelson makes an ever-so-slight cut at the goal line, he adjusts his vision and finds the ball in the air.
Nelson proceeds to outjump the Cover 2 middle linebacker, high point the football, secure the catch at the highest point of his jump and then the Buffalo receiver does a fantastic job of holding onto the ball as he is hit by a safety on his way to the ground.
During another game this year, Nelson proved that no matter the coverage, he can find a way to succeed.
Here we see Nelson a step or two behind the line of scrimmage in an empty set formation for the Bills, set to run another seam route.
Notice the cornerback on the bottom of your screen is about five to seven yards off of the line of scrimmage, having been assigned a deep one-third of the field.
No. 20, Mike Adams, has been assigned to cover David Nelson. He does not press Nelson off of the field, and the Bills wideout recognizes this.
Nelson shifts gears and simply outruns both Adams and the safety help over the top.
Ryan Fitzpatrick hits Nelson in the back of the end zone, and Nelson showcases excellent body control, diving for and catching the football.
In our third and final example, Nelson is, yet again, running a seam route.
Rex Ryan has sent a dime-nickel hybrid formation at the Bills' empty set, sending a very confusing pass rush at Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The play call for the Jets has some concepts of zone coverage—something of a Cover 3 with Rex Ryan-esque modification (notice David Harris curl to the flat side)— in it, but Nelson is wide open in stride just outside the right hashmark.
New York's strategy was that with all of the confusion, Fitzpatrick wouldn't notice a receiver open deep over the middle, but Buffalo's line does a good job of holding the pocket for Fitzpatrick, and the Bills quarterback hits Nelson deep.
Nelson notices the gap in the zone coverage and slows down his gait to make an easy catch in stride on good ball thrown by Ryan Fitzpatrick.
In all three examples, Nelson is running a seam route from the slot.
However, in all three examples, the Bills pass-catcher adjusts his route to break the coverage and ultimately take the top off of the defense, showing his versatility and superior body control.
Nelson is not the second coming for Buffalo, but on a team looking to divert double coverage from fledgling star Stevie Johnson, Nelson can be an effective option whose purposes are many.
Nelson and Fitzpatrick have certainly developed good rapport with one another, and the Bills are prepared to move forward with Johnson, Nelson and whatever else their receiving group yields in 2011.
For Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix, they haven't hit a home run with Nelson.
But a single into right field is certainly a good start.
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