In 1996, Desmond Howard turned among the finest return males in Inexperienced Bay historical past and helped the Packers win Tremendous Bowl XXXI. Then when fere company hit, Howard bolted for the Oakland Raiders.
The Packers made positive the identical factor didn’t occur with return ace Keisean Nixon this offseason.
In response to a number of stories, Nixon and the Packers agreed to a one-year contract value as much as $6 million.
Amongst gamers with at the least 20 kickoff returns final season, Nixon ranked first within the league with a median of 28.8 yards per return. He additionally led the league in kickoff returns of 50-plus yards (5) and 30-plus yards (11), and had a league-leading 1,009 yards on kickoff returns.
Nixon was then named the Related Press’ All-Professional kick returner, the primary Packer participant to ever earn that honor.
“Any time that you’ve a returner that’s able to taking it to the home, that energizes the fellows blocking for him,” Inexperienced Bay coach Matt LaFleur stated late within the 2022 season. “These guys are doing an impressive job and I actually assume now, it’s been a very long time coming, however we’ve got a official menace anytime any individual has to kick off to us.”
The addition of Nixon helped Inexperienced Bay bounce from 32nd to 22nd in Rick Gosselin’s annual particular groups rankings. Amazingly, Nixon didn’t get an opportunity to start out returning kicks till Week 6 when the Packers lastly gave up on former third spherical draft selection Amari Rodgers.
Nixon then made probably the most of his alternatives, highlighted by a 105-yard landing return towards Minnesota and a 93-yarder towards Miami.
“For a very long time right here, and I don’t imply this as disrespect, however it’s simply the information, for a very long time when that ball’s up within the air on a kickoff, I’m pondering, ‘Keep in. Keep in. Don’t convey it out,’ ” quarterback Aaron Rodgers stated late within the 2022 season. “As a result of not a variety of great things occurred. However I at all times inform (Nixon) when he’s about to go on the market, ‘Deliver it out. Deliver that out.’
“Simply because he brings an additional sort of juice to our soccer workforce and you may (win) with guys like that, guys that care about it, guys which can be powerful and guys that make big-time performs. He’s the kind of participant I want I’d had over the course of my profession since you really feel actual good going to battle with a man like that.”
Nixon’s emergence was arguably the most important shock in Inexperienced Bay’s disappointing 2022 marketing campaign.
Nixon had a pair of kickoff return touchdowns whereas enjoying junior school soccer at Arizona Western Neighborhood School. However regardless of his 4.42 pace within the 40-yard sprint, Nixon didn’t do any returning his last two collegiate seasons at South Carolina.
Nixon returned six kicks throughout his first two years with the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders, however averaged simply 14.0 yards per return. When Inexperienced Bay employed particular groups coordinator Wealthy Bissacia within the 2022 offseason, he lobbied so as to add Nixon to the roster — however that was largely to assist enhance Inexperienced Bay’s protection models.
As a substitute, Nixon was a hidden treasure who utterly modified Inexperienced Bay’s strategy to particular groups.
“Yeah, actually pleased with the way in which he … actually responded to the alternatives given to him,” Packers normal supervisor Brian Gutekunst stated of Nixon. “Clearly none of us knew what sort of returner was gonna come out of that and that was a pleasing shock and once more, when the chance got here, was simply actually pleased with how he attacked it.”
Now, he’ll hold attacking it in a Inexperienced Bay uniform for at the least yet one more season.