It’s been three years now, more than 2,700 receiving yards and three Pro Bowl bids ago, but it’s something. First week in October 2012, Week 5 at Cincinnati, then-Miami Dolphins cornerback Sean Smith got tossed on the island with Bengals ball magnet A.J. Green, then coming off back-to-back 100-yard performances against Washington and Jacksonville.
Green’s line: nine grabs, 65 yards, one touchdown, and a -0.5 ProFootballFocus.com (PFF) overall grade — one of only two negative weeks he produced that entire fall.
Smith’s line: eight tackles, one pass break-up and a +1.5 PFF overall rating, +1.3 in terms of coverage.
When the football gods close a window, sometimes they open a door. Sometimes.
First, the bad and the ugly: Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Phillip Gaines is lost for the year — an ACL tear, thanks to coming up on the wrong side of the Lambeau Field turf monster Mondaynight. Considering that the then-rookie out of Rice had his worst NFL performance to date up in Green Bay in the 2014 preseason finale (he got better) and given Monday’s freak twist, there’s clearly something about Wisconsin that doesn’t agree with young Gaines’ karma.
Largely because we don’t have a choice.
Good-bye Phillip, hello, Sean. As in Smith, the Chiefs’ top veteran corner, a 6-foot-3 blanket whose three-game, light-pole-bending suspension is finally up. Penance served, No. 21 is getting shoved straight into the deep end of the pool, with Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton and Green, his favorite target, feeling all kinds of frisky these days.
Welcome back. That tall dude with suction cups for hands? Erase him. Or something.
“Just like riding a bike,” Smith told reporters earlier this week. “One pedal at a time.”
And Chiefs faithful don’t have to ride it in tears when you consider that:
1. You’ve got Smith on Green. Smith on anybody. Hell, just Smith on the field, period. Two weeks too late, but there ya go.
2. The Andy Gang isn’t super deep at corner, but they are flush with safeties who can run. Ron Parker seems, on paper, to be the most logical candidate to chase folks around in the slot, having logged most of the 2013 season on perimeter. Rookie Steven Nelson appeared to be getting groomed for such a role in the spring and summer months, although his August body of work was, um, rather inconclusive (-5.0 overall PFF grade, -4.3 in pass coverage) at best.
3. The Chiefs’ three best cover men in the secondary — safety Eric Berry (+1.6 pass coverage grade), corner Marcus Peters (+1.5) and safety Husain Abdullah (+0.8) — are still kicking.
4. Bonus: Smith’s (assumed) presence allows defensive coordinator Bob Sutton to push Jamell Fleming (-7.8), Marcus Cooper (-1.1) and Tyvon Branch (-5.3) farther down the depth chart. But a secondary that two weeks ago might have been one injury away from trouble is now officially …well, one injury away from trouble.
So while the Gaines news hurts, it’s not a marker of the end of the world as we know it. Although if you squint and stare long enough and hard enough, you can sort of start to make out something that starts to look an awful lot like a signpost.