Green is the new black, at least as far as many former Las Vegas Raiders players are concerned.
With former special teams coordinator and later interim head coach Rich Bisaccia joining the Green Bay Packers in their never-ending search for special teams competence, many former Raiders followed suit.
Keisean Nixon, Rico Gafford, and Dallin Leavitt joined Bisaccia’s staff in Green Bay, and all three have extensive special teams experience. Having proven players familiar with the coach is an incredible gain for a team looking to rebuild their special teams program from the ground up.
Nixon, Gafford, and Leavitt all stand a good chance at making the roster thanks to their special teams acumen, but they’ll also get a fair chance to compete at their primary positions. Nixon stands a strong chance of making the roster as a dual-threat player. With untested cornerback depth beyond the starting trio of Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, and Rasul Douglass, Nixon could make the roster as the fourth CB and a core special teams player.
A UDFA out of South Carolina, Nixon joined the Raiders in Oakland and immediately became a special teamer, playing 69% of the snaps with that unit. As a rookie, he led the Raiders in special teams tackles with nine. Nixon remained a core part of Bisaccia’s unit, playing 64% of special teams snaps in 2020 and 55% in 2021. He was one of the unit’s most reliable tacklers, with 18 special teams tackles in his 40 games.
Nixon signed with the Packers in late March and played as both a core special teamer and the presumable CB4 through OTAs. He missed the first nine practices of training camp with a groin injury, returning for practice No. 10. Nixon said that that injury is no longer an issue and he should be good to go for the future.
He will likely slide back in as a reliable special teams contributor quickly. In his first few practices back, he’s shown off his skills as a gunner and should be a major part of the kick- and punt-coverage squads. Without a lot of proven talent on special teams, Nixon should be a favorite to rebuild the unit.
Nixon will have to play catch-up as a cornerback. On the first unofficial depth chart, he’s below Shemar Jean-Charles, Kabion Ento, Rico Gafford, and Kiondre Thomas. Jean-Charles saw most CB4 snaps in Nixon’s absence and has had a solid camp.
But Nixon is quickly regaining ground with some splash plays on defense. On Monday, he sealed the win for the second-team defense in the two-minute drill by intercepting Jordan Love on the last play of the game. It was a forgivable pick for Love, who needed to force the ball to get the win, but Nixon showed excellent ball-tracking and catching skills.
At 5’10”, 200 lbs., Nixon is also one of the Packers cornerbacks best suited to playing the nickel role. With Alexander, Stokes, and Douglas capable of playing anywhere in the secondary, this gives Joe Barry the freedom to move his starting trio around and sub Nixon in the slot as needed. Slot corner is a bigger role in Barry’s defense than in Mike Pettine’s, and who will “main” the slot was a popular topic of conversation this off-season. While Douglas will probably spend the most time there, having a reliable option like Nixon gives the defense depth.
The Green Bay Press-Gazette’s Ryan Wood noted that the Packers have already slotted Nixon at the second-team nickel corner since returning to practice.
The Packers might have the best starting cornerback trio in the league, but if injuries pile up like last season, there isn’t a lot of proven depth. Green Bay hasn’t brought in other veteran free agents, and Kevin King is still a free agent. That means Nixon is the most experienced of the back half of the cornerback depth. He’ll play a big role for the Packers on special teams, but he will also be important on defense.
Between the Rich Bisaccia connection, his special teams appearance, and the lack of depth at the cornerback position, Nixon is almost a lock to make the Packers’ initial 53-man roster. While other former Raiders special teamers joined the Packers this off-season, Nixon has the best shot to make the roster because of his main position. If injuries hit Green Bay’s starting trio, expect Snoop Dogg’s nephew to be the next man up.