In Final Week, Nixon May be In, Nelson May be Out

A week from now, cornerback Nick Nelson may not be a Raider anymore. Last year’s fourth-round pick from Wisconsin – who had a decent rookie season – is in jeopardy of being cut by Saturday, when the Raiders must get down to 53 players.

Nelson has struggled in this summer’s training camp and games and has been surpassed at the slot corner position by ex-Ram standout Lamarcus Joyner (who will start) and rookie Isaiah Johnson.

At the other end of the spectrum is undrafted rookie Keisean Nixon of South Carolina, who appears to be on his way to earning an opening-day roster spot at cornerback.

On this final week of the exhibition season – the Raiders play their fourth  preseason game Thursday against the Seahawks – many players who’ve worn silver and black over the first three exhibiton games are at risk of suddenly finding themselves unemployed.

Nixon could be one of the happy stories.

Nixon grew up in Southern California, played community college ball in Arizona and then transferred to South Carolina where he had a solid two seasons. Yet a neck injury in his final game may have dissuaded teams from risking a draft choice on him.

But since signing this spring, Nixon has been consistently impressive, wrote Kyle Martin of this week, and in three preseason games he’s had eight tackles, two passes defensed and has been graded one of the NFL’s top pass defenders – even against top competition – according to the analytic website Pro Football Focus.

If you go by what head coach Jon Gruden has said, Nixon seems likely to make the roster.

“If you’ve studied the film, you’ll see what we see,” Gruden said. “He’s made more plays than any of our corners. He’s playing extremely well. He’s confident. I mean, he’s had a lot of ball production and he’s also been a factor on special teams, so we are really pleased with Nixon.”

The 5-foot-10, 193-pounder played 16 games total at South Carolina, and was in on 71 tackles, had two interceptions and a fumble recovery.

When the Raiders open the regular season, Nixon has a shot to be a backup corner behind starters Gareon Conley and Daryl Worley or Trayvon Mullen. His last audition comes Thursday night.

Kickoff against the Seahawks in Seattle is set for 7 p.m.

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