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Giants' 90-man roster: Can DT Louis Nix get back on track?

Once a promising player, former Note Dame star has yet to find NFL success

Louis Nix as a Houston Texans rookie in 2014
Louis Nix as a Houston Texans rookie in 2014
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

"Potential" can be a dirty word in the sports world. When you are judged to have it, then don't reach it, the dreaded "bust" word replaces it. New York Giants defensive tackle Louis Nix III has seen his career move toward the latter word over the past two seasons, if it isn't in fact already there. Can Nix avoid or erase the bust label by becoming a productive member of the Giants defensive line in 2016?

Let's take a closer look at Nix as we continue our series of player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp.

To begin, let's check some of the scouting reports on the former Notre Dame star prior to the 2014 NFL Draft.

From SB Nation:

When fully healthy and in shape, Nix's talent is obvious. Add in his non-stop motor and passion for the game, and Nix should be a productive starter in the NFL for a long time, provided he's able to stay healthy. While we grade Nix as a top 15 player, there's no guarantee he'll come off the board that early. The demand for nose tackles isn't always that high, so Nix could be a player that slides a bit.

From Walter Football:

There is a lot to like about Nix. He looks like a plug-and-play nose tackle in the NFL. He is a heavy load at the point of attack. Nix has the strength and burst to cause a lot of disruption by rocking the center back after the snap. He is a tough run-defender who holds his ground and shows nice quickness in pursuit for such a big tackle.

Nix will never produce big sack numbers, but that isn't his role. In the pass rush, he gets push down the pocket with a powerful bull rush. Nix helps take away quarterbacks' ability to step up in the pocket and that helps his edge rushers rack up sacks. Nix won't record sacks, but he can contribute to a good team rush in the NFL.

Nix's best fit would come in the middle of a 3-4 defense, but he could also be a nose tackle in 4-3. Nix looks most likely to be selected in the back half of the first round.

From CBS Sports:

Nix has struggled with the pressure and expectations of playing for a high-profile program away from home, but he also flashes a rare skill-set for a player his size and strength.

Add the hustle, competitive drive and love of football and Nix presents an enticing prospect for NFL evaluators and he will receive attention by teams drafting in the top 10. The knee injury does create some concern, but few prospects have his combination of fluid athleticism, natural power and sheer size.

Nix slid not only out of the top 10, but all the way out of the first two rounds of the draft. The Houston Texans selected him in third round, 83rd overall. He never played a regular season down for the Texans.

The warning signs with his knee became major. He had his second knee surgery during the offseason prior to his rookie campaign, then a season-ending third knee surgery in September of 2014. He also had a wrist injury along the way.

2015 Season in Review

Nix began 2015 as a member of the Texans, but he started with coach Bill O'Brien already not being his biggest fan. O'Brien had some cutting words for the rehabbing Nix during the offseason:

"I have not seen Louis Nix," O'Brien said. "I don't know. He's working out somewhere in Florida I guess. Haven't seen him. But that's their prerogative, so don't read anything into that. When they show back up here for the offseason program, especially the younger players, the younger players need to be ready to roll. So hopefully he's ready to go."

I asked what he needs to see change from last season in Nix.

"I would say the ability to make it through a practice," O'Brien said. "That would be the biggest thing I need to see."

There really isn't a lot of need to embellish that remark.

O'Brien apparently didn't like what he saw once Nix showed up, either, cutting him at the end of the preseason. That began  a saga with the Giants that also took a couple of strange turns.

The Giants claimed him on waivers, then cut him two days later with a "failed physical" designation. Then, they re-signed him. Nix was active for four games, playing a total of 22 defensive snaps. He did not make a tackle. Nix was waived after those four games. He was re-signed when Johnathan Hankins went on season-ending IR, but the Giants opted to active defensive tackle Montori Hughes. Nix was added to the practice squad for the remainder of the season.

2016 Season Outlook

Nix is one of several players competing for backup defensive tackle roles. Nix, Hughes and undrafted free agents Marvin Lewis and Greg Milhouse are competing for what, at most, would appear to be two roster spots. It is difficult to assess Nix at this point, though the Giants pushing Hughes ahead of him on the depth chart a year ago would seem to signal that they really weren't impressed with what they saw.

How much have the trio of knee surgeries taken from Nix? He is listed at 6-foot-2, 331 pounds, but whether that is accurate and what kind of shape he is in is uncertain. This is Nix training recently with Jason Pierre-Paul:

My boy @1irishchocolate came down to train with me and my boy @malessi2 gonna get us right. #90PowerCircle #putinworkeveryday

A video posted by Jason Pierre-Paul (@iamjasonpierrepaul) on

Is there still time for Nix to become the player many analysts thought he would be coming out of Notre Dame? Has his best chance already slipped away? Perhaps we will find out once training camp opens.