A Look At The Kansas City Chiefs Cornerbacks Without Brandon Flowers

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Dec 29, 2012; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Rice Owls cornerback Phillip Gaines (15) celebrates making a tackle against Air Force Falcons wide receiver Ty MacArthur (27) in the Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Rice beat Air Force 33-14. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Phillip Gaines – 6’1″ – 185 lbs – Rookie – Rice

In a move that now makes even more sense, the Chiefs passed up many good prospects at positions of perceived need (WR, OL, S) when they drafted Phillip Gaines in the third round of the draft last month. While Gaines may not have experience playing against big time competition, he does possess the physical tools that the Chiefs appear to look for in their outside CBs. His combination of height (6’1″) and speed (4.35 forty) make him an intriguing prospect. While there hasn’t been the same endless stream of praises coming out of OTAs for Gaines as there has been for top pick Dee Ford, it’s still early and you have to think that with Flowers gone the Chiefs must believe that Gaines will be able to contribute as a rookie. After all, if they wouldn’t hesitate to put a guy on the field that was a 7th round pick that they claimed off waivers right before the season (Cooper) surely they won’t hesitate to get Gaines out there.

So what type of player should we expect to see? Here are a few snippets from a couple of Gaines’ draft profiles:

Gaines is the fastest CB in the 2014 draft class and combines that natural speed with length. Skilled at matching up in man coverage and playing from the line. Mixes in press, bump and run, and press-bail looks and shows smooth transition skills. Gaines’ straight line closing speed allows him to play aggressive, knowing he can make up ground when the ball is thrown. Competitive and feisty at the catch point. Has broken up an impressive 38 passes over the course of his career. To this point Gaines hasn’t been challenged by the athleticism of opposing WR. If he wants to play the same way at the next level he’ll have to get stronger and more technique sound. – Mike Loyko’s 2014 NFL Draft Guide

Gaines has the size, length and aggressive nature to match-up well against receivers at the LOS to press, showing the footwork and redirection skills to flip and stick down the field, but he is inexperienced in his backpedal. He isn’t as physical as he looks and needs to refine his tackling technique, but he competes with the ball in the air and holds the Rice record for career passes defended (42) – just needs to come down with more interceptions. Gaines is patient and alert, but won’t take many chances and needs to continue to develop his instincts to stay on the field at the next level. – Dane Brugler’s 2014 NFL Draft Guide

So if the scouting reports are to be believed, Gaines is exactly the type of CB that the Chiefs are looking for, he just will have to put in the time to improve his strength and technique in order to be able to hang with NFL caliber WRs. If Gaines is a quick learner he could see the field a lot as a rookie (similar to Cooper last season). If Gaines struggles in camp and Smith and Cooper are healthy and producing as the starters on the outside then Gaines could end up being less of a factor unless he can prove capable of moving inside and covering the slot. His physical skill set seems better suited for the outside on paper so it will be interesting to see how things play out in training camp and the preseason.

Chris Owens – 5’9″ – 180 lbs – 6th season – San Jose State

Chris Owens was one of just a handful of offseason acquisitions that John Dorsey made this offseason. While Owens isn’t exactly a household name or big time CB, he did actually grade out higher with PFF (again, not that their grades are law) than Flowers, Smith, or Cooper did last season for KC. With Owens physical stature being noticeably smaller than the other CBs on this list, the assumption is that Owens was brought in to play in the nickel package and line up against slot WRs. This assumption appears to be correct if OTAs are any indication with reports having Owens largely lining up there thus far in practice.

I’ll admit to not knowing a lot about Owens so I don’t have any first hand insight to share and am looking forward to watching him in action in camp and preseason games. I may even give a few games of his from last season a watch on NFL Game Rewind if I can’t wait that long. However, in the meantime, I looked over his career grades from PFF. His yearly grades were as follows: 0.9 in 2009, -12.9 in 2010, -1.1 in 2011, 4.9 in 2012, and 2.2 in 2013. Owens may not be a Pro Bowl level player, but finishing with positive PFF scores in three of his five NFL seasons says that he belongs on a NFL roster. While I don’t think KC will ask Owens to start and cover teams top WRs on the outside, he could fill a valuable role if he can display solid coverage skills as a nickel back in the sub package.

Keep in mind, despite Flowers Pro Bowl selection he actually had a down year in coverage. If Owens can give KC a suitable replacement in the slot at a fraction of the cost the loss of Flowers will begin to be a lot less painful.

Ron Parker – 6’0″ – 206 lbs – 4th season – Newberry

Ron Parker is a little bit of a mystery as he heads into his first training camp with the Chiefs. Like Cooper, Parker was picked up by GM John Dorsey after he was cut by another team with an incredibly deep roster, the Seattle Seahawks. While Parker didn’t see the field near as often as Cooper, he did prove to be a valuable addition to the team. Parker was mainly a fixture on special teams, but he did look good in the limited defensive snaps that he received.

Parker was credited with 99 snaps on defense (for comparison Cooper had 722) with 64 of those coming in the week 17 game at San Diego when KC rested most of their regular starters. In those 99 snaps Parker received a +4.3 grade from PFF. Personally, I always came away impressed with Parker’s play and am anxious to see how he looks after having a full year of experience in the system. Parker is almost built more like a safety with a powerful build and one would think he’d excel in run support with seeing how he plays on special teams.

Since Sean Smith’s DUI arrest Parker (not Gaines) has been running with the first string with Smith demoted to the twos. This isn’t a surprise since Gaines is still learning the system, so if Smith does get a one game suspension I think it will be a contest to see which of those two get the starting nod. Reports from OTAs with Parker running with the ones haven’t been spectacular, but it’s really too early to make any kind of judgement. I would describe Parker as an intriguing special teams player who may have a chance to earn a bigger role, but it’s certainly not a guarantee.

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  • 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.