Chiefs 2015: Five most important players for success

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Aug 7, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Phillip Gaines (23) on the line of scrimmage during the second of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals half at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 41 – 39. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

5. Phillip Gaines

This is probably a stunner to some, but think about it. Gaines is going to be playing somewhere in the secondary, whether it is in the slot or on the outside opposite of Sean Smith. Smith is likely going to be suspended for the first two games of the season after his DUI case, so Gaines will likely be on the outside against both the Houston Texans and Denver Broncos.

Gaines is only entering his second year, but he is going to be the more accomplished starter if Smith is suspended. The third-round pick out of Rice University might be playing on the opposite side of Marcus Peters, the 2015 first-round pick who is steeped in the bump-and-run system. Gaines has to be the leader, whether or not he is ready.

Ultimately, this is a pass-first league and the Chiefs play in a division with Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers. Kansas City needs Gaines to be a shut-down corner, even when Smith returns. If Gaines can’t hack it, he will be targeted constantly with Smith already having a reputation as one of the best in the game. Last year, Smith ranked fifth of all corners via Pro Football Focus, only behind Chris Harris Jr., Vontae Davis, Darrelle Revis and Richard Sherman. Gaines ranked 51st. He will need to be better.

If defensive coordinator Bob Sutton can rely on Gaines to play solid man-to-man coverage, the Chiefs can unload with new blitz packages from all angles. Gaines is the key from Kansas City going from a really good defense to a great defense.

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