The Kansas City Chiefs not only lost to the Green Bay Packers in epic fashion on Monday Night Football, they also lost their slot corner. On Wednesday, head coach Andy Reid announced that Phillip Gaines will miss the rest of the 2015 season with a torn ACL.
The loss of Gaines is not devastating, but it is significant. Gaines was going to be the slot corner with the return of Sean Smith and the emergence of Marcus Peters. Without Gaines, the Chiefs need to figure out the slot situation. When Gaines went down in the first quarter against Green Bay, Tyvon Branch was inserted and absolutely could not handle the transition from safety. Kansas City drafted Steven Nelson in the third round to be a slot corner, but he has been inactive throughout the first three games of the season despite being healthy.
Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton needs to figure out how to fix this problem, and the solution could be terrifying. Sutton might need to insert Jamell Fleming or Marcus Cooper to play in Gaines’s spot. The Chiefs could also roll with a safety dropping down into that role, since Husain Abdullah, Eric Berry and Ron Parker have all played man-to-man in the past.
On the positive side, none of Kansas City’s upcoming opponents have anybody worth mentioning in the slot. The Cincinnati Bengals are good on the outside, but nobody inside scares you. The same can be said for the Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers. Frankly, the Chiefs have a bit of time to figure this problem out, because they don’t face a quality slot receiver until Week 11 when they visit the San Diego Chargers on Sunday Night Football.
Feel better, Phillip. See you in 2016.