A Look At The Kansas City Chiefs Cornerbacks Without Brandon Flowers

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Brandon Flowers is no longer a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. At this point I’m sure most KC fans have had a chance to let the news from last Friday sink in. It’s a move that is both disappointing and understandable. It’s disappointing because Flowers had been a very good and very well liked player for the Chiefs. It’s disappointing because they weren’t able to get anything for him. It’s disappointing because pass coverage was already an area of concern for the Chiefs after their playoff collapse against the Colts and now they have released their most accomplished cornerback.

It’s understandable because the Chiefs were strapped for salary cap space with a couple of key players that they plan on building around in need of new contracts and Flowers had a big cap number. It’s understandable because Flowers was coming off arguably the worst season of his career. It’s understandable because Flowers didn’t really fit the system that KC wanted to run and he reportedly wasn’t happy about being asked to play nickel back.

It is what it is. We can certainly debate some more if this was the right thing to do, but nothing we say (or write) is going to change anything now. The fact is that when the Chiefs take the field in week one against the Tennessee Titans, Brandon Flowers will not be in a Chiefs uniform. So now the question that becomes more important to the Chiefs 2014 season is who will man the cornerback position for KC this season and will these players be good enough to keep KC in games and give them a shot to return to the playoffs in Andy Reid’s second season?

As I see it, there are currently five pure CBs and two hybrid CB/Ss on the roster that are the clear favorites to make the team. Could someone bump one of these guys off the roster? Sure. Could John Dorsey hit the waiver wire again after rosters are cut down to add someone? Of course, but if you had to bet $100 on which DBs would make the week one 53 man roster and fill the snaps vacated by Flowers, I believe those players would be:

Sean Smith
Marcus Cooper
Phillip Gaines
Chris Owens
Ron Parker
Husain Abdullah
Sanders Commings

I’m leaving Eric Berry out of this discussion because I feel he is a pure safety. He is important to the Chiefs pass coverage, but he won’t personally be filling the void left by the loss of Flowers. So if the Chiefs are going to be strong (or at least average) in pass coverage this coming season it’s likely going to be some combination of those seven players that get the job done. Therefore, I thought this might be a good time to stop and take a look at each of these guys to see what KC has to work with.

Starting with……

Sean Smith – 6’3″ – 218 lbs – 6th season – Utah

Sean Smith is entering his second season with the Chiefs after signing as a free agent and having spent his first four seasons with the Miami Dolphins. In my opinion, Smith is an adequate but not great NFL starter. He isn’t a liability but he also isn’t a top coverage corner that can take away the other team’s best receivers. If you take a look at his Pro Football Focus ratings for last season (side note: I love PFF and think there is value in their evaluations, but their grades aren’t law and should only make up a part of your evaluation of a player) you will see that Smith appeared in all 17 games for the Chiefs last season. He had six games where he graded out positively, six where he was middle of the road average, and five where he graded out poorly. That’s about as middle of the road as you can get.

Smith’s height and athleticism for his size are a valuable asset in the NFL as well. So I feel like while Smith’s upside may not be that of a number one CB, I have no problem with him being one of the starters on the outside (other than he’s apparently a knucklehead given his recent DUI arrest). That having been said, if Smith is the best coverage DB that KC has on their roster, that’s probably not a good thing. While KC has a lot of inexperienced players in the secondary, Smith is at least a proven commodity.

Marcus Cooper – 6’2″ – 192 lbs – 2nd season – Rutgers

Unless something unexpected happens, the other likely starting CB along with Sean Smith is 2nd year man Marcus Cooper. Cooper was a 7th round draft pick by the 49ers last year, but because of their incredible roster depth they had to try and sneak him onto their practice squad. John Dorsey was having none of that though and Cooper became one of several players that KC claimed after teams made their final roster cut downs. Cooper went on to play in all 17 games for KC last year, including significant time in ten of them and even started six times.

Through his first nine games Cooper looked like the steal of the century and a contender for defensive rookie of the year. His PFF grade for those first nine games was +10.0. Just to give you a point of comparison for that, there were only 11 CBs in the entire NFL to finish the season with a rating that high. However, things were about to change drastically and not for the better. In weeks 11-13 the Chiefs would face the Broncos twice with the Chargers sandwiched between them. In those three games Cooper was completely exposed. His combined PFF grade for those three games was -13.0. For that three game stretch Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers made Cooper look like a rookie 7th round draft pick. It wasn’t pretty. However, he did stop the bleeding some in the final stretch of the season. While Cooper wasn’t able to recapture his amazing play from the first half of the season, a combined PFF grade for the final five games he played of -0.8 shows that he was able to compose himself after that horrific three game stretch.

The best news for KC fans is that Cooper is still only a 24 year old player that is entering his first offseason with the team. Cooper was learning the KC system on the fly last year (making his impressive start all the more impressive) and now will have the benefit of a full camp with the team. The other thing to keep in mind with Cooper is that he is still relatively new to playing CB. Originally a WR, he didn’t make the conversion to CB until midway through his time at Rutgers. Given the strong play and natural ability he flashed in stretches as a rookie there is every reason to believe that his best days are ahead of him. Besides, despite his really bad three game stretch he still finished his rookie season with a PFF grade higher than many big name veterans including Brandon Flowers, DeAngelo Hall, Charles Tillman, Antonio Cromartie, and Courtland Finnegan.

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Tags: Brandon Flowers Kansas City Chiefs

  • berttheclock

    Cooper was playing very well before Denver decided to play the pick game with him. Whomever he covered would cross on a slant and another wide out would pick Cooper. For some reason, the refs, last season were letting many teams run borderline legal picks, including the Chiefs. Cooper ended up paying confused until he could be placed outside against receivers running the sidelines. Remember, he only played corner for a couple of years at Rutgers, so, he is really just beginning to understand the position. I look at him as the glass half full.

    What bothers me about Owens was reading in several Cleveland Browns article at The Plain Wrapper that he had a great training camp, then, appeared to tail off as the season progressed. As the Browns had a decent defense with an excellent secondary, this is troubling.

    I have asked this question twice and no one has answered. I do wonder if Dorsey would consider reaching out to Chris Houston. He went through major surgery on his toe and he is still rehabbing. The Lions cut him one year after paying him $25 M with a fine guarantee which put a lot of coin in his bank account. Some reports said they gave him an injury settlement, while, others said they did not and just cut him. There is the possibility they could try to bring him back for far less money. But, should he heal quickly, he might be a prospect for the Chiefss. Since, he has been released it would not be tampering to contact his agent. The major problem with this is what sort of shape is he in and how long would it take him to regain his speed.

    As for Commings, my only question is how will his twice injured shoulder hold up when he has to start hitting?

  • Deaudrey Dre-Mac MacDonald

    I think Cooper can be a star player for the Chiefs, only 1 problem with the article…Sanders Commings was a Georgia Bulldog not from Alabama lol. Other than that good analysis.

    • berttheclock

      I suppose the SEC becomes a blur after a while. I wrote about Shaun Alexander, recently, and I, at first, wrongfully had him coming out of Auburn instead of ‘Bama.

      • Deaudrey Dre-Mac MacDonald

        Right lol the SEC has mass produced most of your NFL talent it just gets confusing lol

    • Lyle Graversen

      Man, good catch, I’ll change it. I knew that, but I guess that’s what happens when you write off only 4 hrs of sleep!

      • berttheclock

        Hey, Lyle, I had more than four last night and, so far, I have used the edit function five times.

      • Deaudrey Dre-Mac MacDonald

        4hrs off sleep??? Wow I can barely talk straight at work off that much sleep and I sale for a living lol. Good article anyway. Personally I think the Chiefs will be ok. But you are starting to see John Dorsey and Andy Reid make moves for players you didn’t see Scott Pioli do and get results on them. Who knew that Marcus Cooper would be that good that he moved a “pro bowl” corner to the inside?? Yea with a more consistent pass rush these guys will be ok.

    • mnelson52

      I looked back yesterday at some of Sanders highlights. He is a hard hitter with good closing speed. I guess the center field comes out of him also, because he is quite the ball hawk. At least at the college level. I really hopes that translates to the NFL.

      • Deaudrey Dre-Mac MacDonald

        With his ability he reminded me of Rod Woodson when he moved to safety with the Ravens…bigger body and a tad faster than Woodson at that time but with the same potential. IMO

  • Stacy D. Smith

    I think Owens is the favorite to take over for Flowers as the slot corner. He’s a solid football player so I think we’ll be okay there. I do expect to see other players in the role throughout the year though. Many of which were mentioned here in your article.

    Good work, Graversen!

  • berttheclock

    I hate to spoil the morning for fans, but, John Elway has said the slot corner is the toughest one to fill. He listed what one needs to play the position. They must be quick enough to cover the equally quick slot receivers, they must be sure tacklers as they become the guy who stops those receivers from breaking out into long runs and they must be fast enough to drop outside. So, it becomes one of being lucky enough to find one and, then, finding the money to keep the guy. Look at Seattle, the picked up Walter Thurmond in their great haul of 2010 and he rose to the top of his position as a nickle back, but, they have lost him to the Giants due to money.

  • Edmond Dantes

    Need a step up from Cooper. Abdullah from all accounts and reports will be a major force. If the chiefs get good to great production from Cooper this defense could be top 10. Smith I don’t expect much from. Normally when you’re in trouble off the field you arent a good or great player on it. It seems to affect you negatively. Especially something serious. Rookies are what they are and Cooper last year should show you not to get to excited too fast. Chiefs need an elite pass rush. That will help any defense become good or great as we saw last year through 9 games.

  • berttheclock

    I wonder what Chiefs fans would think if the Chiefs had taken the small safety, Jimmy Ward, out of Northern Illinois and said they were going to try him at nickle? This is what the Niners are doing with Ward. Funny thing is lack of size has been a major question for him since HS. No SEC team would even consider him when he came out of an Alabama HS. In fact, no regional team talked to him. It was only a visit by a coach from Northern Illinois making a swing through Alabama which led to offering him a scholarship. The coach said every time he watched film on him, he appeared to be the best player on the field. I doubt if Dorsey even considered him as his five nine size didn’t fit the new bigger is better pattern. Should he end up starting for the Niners, it will be interesting to see how he fares against the Chiefs.

    • tm1946

      Actually it will not. If we could “cherry pick” players, the Chiefs would have won more than one Super Bowl in their entire history.
      Much as we like DorseyReid, this looks like a tough year, win wise. Wondering if some possible future HOFer or first stringer would have helped, seems a bit of a waste of time.

      • berttheclock

        I am very pleased Dorsey took Dee Ford instead of a safety and I really don’t believe Ward, at his small stature, was ever considered. I still believe a solid pass rush with the opposing QB flattened and the ball rolling out of his hand is the best friend of any CB. I only brought this up about Ward to show how other teams are trying smaller DBs at nickle. We could see a Ward versus DAT matchup. and that is why I said it could be interesting.

  • tm1946

    I am betting it will be a patch workcombo style of replacement. Oh, many have a favorite who is just perfect if just given a chance…. only fly in that ointment, injury, toast, could not finish the season. It is great to be the next star, cannot miss, went to my favorite college kid but until you actually play on the field in an actual NFL game, you are not much.
    Most were here last year, the DC should know what he has, shortcomings and the rest of it. So I figure he will mix and match depending on situation, at least for this year (much like WR#2). We survive the 2014 season with what we have and hope, with a few more cuts to stars, we can add players in 2015.

  • tezmacko

    I believe the darkhorse in our DB stable is none other than Ron Parker. He did a wonderful job on special teams and he has really fast game speed. I would like to see what Bob Sutton can do with him in the mix. I don’t care if he just blitz the QB, get him more playing time since the cornerback position is now blown wide open.