When the Green Bay Packers first signed Keisean Nixon early on in the offseason as a former member of the Las Vegas Raiders, it was assumed that he was here to help turn this special teams unit around under Rich Bisaccia. And while that was largely true, when given the opportunity on defense, Nixon has impressed from the slot.
Naturally, there was a lot of excitement around this Packers cornerback room prior to the season beginning with Jaire Alexander healthy, Rasul Douglas back on a new contract, and Eric Stokes coming off a fantastic rookie season. However, the depth of this group was a big concern as there was little experience on the roster behind those three.
As training camp and the preseason unfolded, the emergence of Nixon helped quell some of those concerns, and although it’s a small sample size, he has provided stability to the position when called upon.
With Alexander missing most of Week 3 against Tampa Bay and then all of Week 4 verse New England, Nixon took over in the slot, playing 88 snaps. He was heavily targeted by Tom Brady and, overall, allowed 10 completions on 12 targets during those two weeks, but was excellent at limiting the pass catchers to only nine yards per catch.
Nixon saw a few random snaps here and there following those two games but was called upon again against Detroit with Stokes leaving. This time, he was credited with allowing a pair of receptions on four targets but, again, for just 8.5 yards per PFF ($$). He was also called for a holding penalty that extended a Detroit drive, but it was a very questionable one at that.
The overall stat line of 13 receptions allowed on 17 targets for 118 yards certainly doesn’t leap off the page, but Nixon has held his own, limiting the big play. Also, with some combination of Douglas, Stokes, and Alexander playing alongside him, Nixon is, of course, going to be targeted heavily by the opposing quarterback.
In addition to limiting the big play, Nixon has been a sound and willing tackler, an important aspect of playing the slot cornerback role, and something has very much been missing from this Packers’ defense. He has been in on 10 total tackles this season, not missing any, while also having PFF’s sixth-best tackling grade among cornerbacks this season.
“I love his play style,” said Matt LaFleur on Wednesday. “He plays fast, he plays physical, he trusts what he sees. It’s just continuing to get more comfortable with that position and making the most of his opportunities but I think so far, up to date, he’s done a pretty good job.”
Along with those defensive responsibilities, Nixon is still a core member of the special teams unit, including as the kick returner and an impactful gunner on the punt coverage unit.
At this time we do not know the severity of Stokes’ injury, but Matt LaFleur did mention on Monday that he is concerned, which could mean that the Packers are without him for some time. If that is the case, Nixon will be Green Bay’s go-to slot option, where he has been able to provide needed stability in a small sample size.