Reggie Nelson is a Monster in the Box, Struggles in Coverage
Reggie Nelson was moved to safety from cornerback in Jacksonville due to his struggles in coverage. With another converted corner, Nate Clements, taking over the starting duties at strong safety, this has allowed Nelson to play where he excels: close to the line of scrimmage.
On this play, he sees Richardson chip block the defensive end and head to the flat. The center and right guard release to block for the screen, but Nelson breaks on Richardson the moment that Weeden begins to throw.
In fact, the Bengals did a great job diagnosing screens against the Browns, taking away one of Richardson’s biggest strengths. On this play, Michael Johnson sees Richardson releasing for a screen, chips him and then follows him to the flat. Atkins also senses his man releasing and heads to the flat, a very headsy play.
But here is the downside of Nelson’s abilities. Playing high coverage, Josh Gordon aligns in the slot and releases vertically. Gordon did this twice for touchdowns in the previous week. Hall is playing an underneath zone and bumps Gordon at the line to slow him down, then releases to the flat.
When Gordon reaches the second level, Nelson is slow to react. He does not turn his hips until Gordon is passing him and is helpless to stop the touchdown.
Blown Coverage in the Red Zone
After reviewing the Ben Watson touchdown that signaled the beginning of the end, it is apparent that one of the linebackers blew the coverage. Most likely, it was Rey Maualuga, who played very well against the run and, until that point, adequately against the pass.
Greg Little is aligned in a three point stance on the right side of the formation, and Leon Hall takes him as he runs a dig across the back of the end zone. The fullback releases to the flat, and Manny Lawson picks him up. Maualuga could have been the assigned defender, but he is late to arrive in coverage anyway. Ben Watson is aligned as the inner tight end on the right side and releases all alone.
Watson and Jordan Cameron, the tight end on the left run crossing routes and Dan Skuta does a good job staying with Cameron through the mesh point. Vontaze Burfict appears to be playing the robber zone in the middle of the field based on his shuffle, and breaks to help Hall with coverage underneath.
Watson, of course, is left all alone. When Weeden looks to Little first, he sees the amount of defenders and immediately looks to Watson. It can not be any easier than that, and Mike Zimmer has likely ripped either Maualuga or Lawson a new one in film study this week.