With Buster Skrine's status in doubt for Sunday's Jets-Falcons tilt at MetLife Stadium, the Green & White may have to go to Plan B at the nickel cornerback spot. And amongst their inside options is Robert Nelson, who had been a member of the practice squad for a month and was promoted to the active roster this week.
"I'm here just to do my job and help this team however that may be," he said.
The 5'10", 175-pound Nelson appeared in 11 games last season for the Texans, totaling 20 tackles, two pass defenses and an interception.
"Mostly in Houston, I played outside. I got in there a couple of games at played nickel," said the 27-year-old Nelson. "I'm starting off at nickel here and mainly special teams. If they need me to just play outside or they need me to just play special teams or they me to help those guys on scout team, that's the position I'm here for."
When asked about Nelson this week, defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers described the defender as both "extremely quick" and "extremely competitive." If Nelson is asked to take on an inside role this week, he'll be prepared to handle a lot of traffic.
"You go after fast guys, you guard quick guys. You have to be aware and you have to be able to go in there and tackle running backs," he said. "You have to attack the screens, take on linemen. You have to be prepared for all of that. You have to really get in the mix and be prepared to put your body in there and put it on the line for the team."
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After Skrine suffered a concussion against the Dolphins, he has yet to practice. If Skrine is inactive, the Jets could elect to move Darryl Roberts inside in sub packages or possibly go with Nelson and keep Roberts opposite Morris Claiborne. All of their corners — including Juston Burris — cross-train and the Jets employ a number of three- and four-safety looks as well.
No matter who is lining up in the defensive backfield, the Falcons will present a great challenge. Julio Jones might be the top receiver in football, Mohamed Sanu has excelled in the slot throughout his career, Taylor Gabriel can fly, Austin Hooper is a big target at tight end and both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman can do damage out of the backfield.
"That's the same wide receivers and the same offense and the same defense that went to the Super Bowl last year," Nelson said. "It's a big challenge for anybody. They're great receivers. My buddy Taylor Gabriel is on the team and I played with him in Cleveland, so I know what he's bringing to the table. I know the chip he has on his shoulder, I know the chip Julio has on his shoulder and I know the chip all their receivers have on their shoulders. You have to take this game like it's your last."
An undrafted free agent who signed with the Cleveland Browns in 2014, Nelson appeared in seven games his rookie season while contributing on special teams. He spent most of the 2015 campaign on the Arizona Cardinals' practice squad before making the career-high 11 appearances with Houston last season. Regardless if he makes his season debut Sunday, Nelson is happy to be a Jet.
"Whether I'm out there or whether Buster's out there or whether someone else is out there, I'm just blessed to be here," he said. "Whatever my position may be on gameday, whether I'm suited up or on the sideline, I'm just blessed to be here."