When the Kansas City Chiefs drafted Rice Cornerback, Phillip Gaines last season, he reminded me of the great, Albert Lewis. Coming out of college, he was tall, lanky and had exceptional closing speed.
Last season he played above average for a rookie when he was thrust into action throughout the 2014 campaign.. Yes, he like all rookies, the young corner was torched by some of the games greatest quarterbacks. However, as an NFL cornerback one year removed from college, he held his ground and survived his baptism at the position.
With Sean Smith still waiting word on this possible suspension, Gaines has the opportunity to rise above what he did last year and become a solid NFL starter for the Chiefs.
Head Coach, Andy Reid, has kept a close eye on his young cornerback and is encouraged by his progress from a year ago to this point in KC’s OTA sessions.
”You saw him continue to get better every week last year during the season. He’s gotten bigger and stronger,” Reid said.
That might be the case but it wasn’t easy for Gaines a year ago at to understand the speed of the game nor the responsibilities on the field as a shut down defender. However, there is no question he has the skills to play the corner position in the NFL.
“Listen, he’s smart and he’s fast and he’s got good hips. He hit a low during training camp where nothing was going right for him for about two days there. And then he kind of picked himself off the mat and whether he rearranged his thought process – whatever it was that took place – he just kept getting better from that point. And he had some good downs for us last year and now coming out here, he’s jumped right in and he looks terrific,” Reid said of his second year cornerback.
The fact Reid speaks so highly of Gaines, when Peters and Nelson are sitting on the sidelines until they finish the 2015 school year at their respective schools, indicates Reid has noticed a significant improvement in Gaines.
The Kansas City Chiefs are going to face some mighty big challenges defending the pass in 2015. They’re set to face some of the games elite quarterbacks this season that has to be a concern to the coaching staff. That means Smith, Peters, Nelson and Gaines are going to have to rely on each other.
Let’s face it; they’re all going to get burned on the field. However, they each posses the ability to make big plays.
For Gaines though, his growth from last year until now is a critical item for the potential success of KC’s defense in 2015. As an outside cornerback, he must defend his island and do it well. A year ago he took some chances and it cost the Chiefs points.
This season he’s going to do the same thing, but when you factor in his newfound experience, that might give him the razors edge to make a solid leap in performance in this year.
The good news is Gaines has immense tools, the ability to shake off a bad play and a terrific Defensive Backs Coach in Emmitt Thomas. If he fails on the football field, he will have only himself to blame.
Yet I don’t think that’s going to be the case this season. If he starts living up to the case I’m making as an Albert Lewis clone, the young man is going to have a terrific season.
In fact, should that play rise this season, I could see he, and Marcus Peters, as long time companions in the Chiefs secondary.
Photos Courtesy of Ron Chenoy & Steve Mitchell