Gutcheck: Rising up for Chiefs’ critical contest

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Sep 17, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Knile Davis (34) is congratulated by cornerback Marcus Peters (22) after scoring against the Denver Broncos during the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. The Broncos won 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Flipping the Defense

In complete contrast to the offense, the defense has changed identities.  Despite 2014’s impressive performance defending the pass, the Chiefs defense has given up play after play in the passing game to start this season.

The primary reason has been the carousel at cornerback.  While Sean Smith was suspended the team could rely on second-year corner Philip Gaines to tandem with rookie sensation Marcus Peters.  The third cornerback spot was the concern and would have been addressed this week with Smith’s return to the lineup.

Gaines’ injury changes all that.

Aug 15, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith reacts against the Arizona Cardinals during a preseason NFL football game at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Smith will be back.  He may be rusty and not up to his standard of play from last season.  He’ll have Peters to pair with but once against he third corner spot is a big target for the opposition.  There are two viable ways to adapt and both leave vulnerabilities open for the Bengals’ suddenly powerful offense to exploit.

The nickel can be addressed in two ways.  The team can take their chances with the Cooper/Fleming monster on the outside opposite Smith and move Peters into the nickel.  This let’s them keep one of their top 2 corners on A.J. Green and Marvin Jones because they do work out of the slot.  That would leave the weak spot for the Bengals’ Mohamed Sanu.  Sanu is the third receiver but has been productive in the past.

The more productive option in the long run is to activate Steven Nelson and let him jump into the fire.  Nelson is clearly not ready to play.  He will be a liability for the first few weeks.  However, he has one thing that is critical for playing the nickel corner role.

After Philip Gaines, he has the quickest hips of the Chiefs defensive backs.  His hips are a bit faster than Peters’ and that makes it a better fit to put him in at nickel and let him take his lumps while leaving Peters outside.

It’s a risk.  Randall Cobb showed what a slot receiver can do to this stubborn defense.  Playing Nelson over Cooper and Fleming is the best situation for the team in the long run.

The end of the first quarter of the season is in site!

I’ll have more next week…