CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 11: Reggie Nelson #20 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs an interception upfield during the game against the Houston Texans at Paul Brown Stadium on December 11, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Texans defeated the Bengals 20-19. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
Talk about a player who has seen it all in his five previous years in the NFL. He was a former first round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2007 and made the Pro Bowl that year. He started to fall from grace there though, as a combination of a lack of supporting talent, being used in positions that weren't his strength and just plain underachieving on Nelson's end led to his trade to the Bengals before the 2010 season. It has been a trade that has paid dividends for Cincinnati in that timespan.
As good as he was in his rookie year, one could argue that Nelson had an even better season in 2011. He manned the backfield for a No. 7 ranked defense and racked up four interceptions, two forced fumbles, and 85 total tackles. He also had his first career touchdown last season, returning an interception 75 yards against the Seattle Seahawks, helping seal that much-needed victory. He was a pretty hot commodity on the free agent market, but decided to stick with Mike Zimmer and the Bengals after being offered a similar contract from the New York Jets.
It will be interesting to watch Nelson in 2012. He lost his partner of the past two seasons in Chris Crocker, who some think helped line up Nelson at times. His new partner will be an unproven one and he'll need to become the mentor that Crocker was. It is also going to be interesting to see if Nelson will live up to the lucrative contract he signed. It's no surprise that one of Nelson's best seasons as a pro was during a contract year and one has to hope that there's not a letdown there.
We don't foresee a letdown though and expect Nelson to have another solid season. He's been given a new lease on life here in Cincinnati and he's taken advantage of it. He has become one of the best safeties that the team has had since the days of Darryl Williams, David Fulcher and Sam Shade and is one of the better overall defensive players.