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Why Reggie Nelson Is The Best Safety On The Bengals Roster

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Marvin Lewis has already admitted that he expects the team's starting safeties to be Chris Crocker and Reggie Nelson this season. Not that we're dealing with explosive news breaking information here, considering Nelson and Crocker are the only safeties signed for the 2011 season.

Hoping to bolster the roster, the Bengals did select Robert Sands in the fifth round during the NFL Draft, and you could probably pencil in Tom Nelson, who would be a cheap body as an exclusive-rights free agent. There are some free agents that will be available once free agency kicks off after the declaration of labor peace. We're not expecting a big splash because the demand for safeties will be high and the quality of talent will suggest teams will overpay for available safeties.

And the problem isn't so much run support as it is coverage. Consider the following chart, coverage statistics against the team's top four safeties in 2010.

  Games Snaps Pct. of Rec. Yards TDs Ints QB Rating
Reggie Nelson 16 496 45% 146 0 2 30.4
Chris Crocker 9 529 53.3% 240 1 0 91.0
Chinedum Ndukwe 12 538 73.9% 206 0 1 82.9
Roy Williams 12 477 87.5% 65 0 1 60.9

And this isn't the only spot Nelson appears as the team's top safety. He's about as sure a tackler this defense has in the secondary. According to an analysis by Pro Football Focus, Nelson missed a tackle on one in every 15.67 attempts, which ranks well inside a top-20 ranking of tackling safeties.

Nelson, who the Bengals acquired for cornerback David Jones before the start of last season, is entering the final year under contract in 2011.