Chiefs Training Camp Preview: Cornerbacks

For reasons unbeknownst to me, Brandon Flowers got the Donnie Edwards treatment from Kansas City this offseason… and apparently, he was happy to oblige them in bringing it full circle by signing with San Diego.

In the same offseason that marquee cornerbacks Joe Haden and Richard Sherman signed very lucrative extensions, Brandon Flowers found himself out of a job for the first time in his career. After establishing himself as one of the elite all-around corners in the NFL, Flowers missed four starts as he battled through countless injuries in 2013. There was also a position switch to consider: he was relegated to slot-duty when defensive coordinator Bob Sutton deemed his best corner unfit for an “outside” role in his defense.

June 13th: in quintessential “What have you done for me lately?” fashion, Flowers is released.

Pretty peculiar timing given that the Chiefs other “starting” corner, Sean Smith, was arrested on June 10th for driving under the influence after allegedly striking a light pole in downtown KC.

Signed away from the Dolphins last offseason, Sean Smith was billed as the perfect fit for Bob Sutton’s aggressive press-man scheme. His first year in Kansas City was only mildly impressive, battling with mental lapses and a lack of top-end speed. At 6′ 3, 215, Smith is an imposing figure for most receivers. Problem is, he doesn’t seem to use the functional strength in his hands and arms when pressing, leading to far too many “free releases” for his opposition. Add in his legal trouble and you’re looking at a man that should be fighting for his job in Training Camp.

The Marcus Cooper story/timeline is fascinating:

  • Switched from WR to CB in his junior at Rutgers
  • Drafted in the seventh round by San Francisco in 2013
  • Claimed off waivers by the Chiefs after NFL final cut down day
  • Made his first start in Kansas City in week 4
  • First interception in week five, had another in week in six
  • Tamba Hali and Justin Houston go down with injuries
  • Cooper faces Manning – Rivers – Manning in consecutive weeks
  • Peter King writes this article

It’s crazy to think that entering the bye week last year the Chiefs were 9-0 and Marcus Cooper was a heavy favorite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year. Obviously his season ended somewhat poorly but there’s reason to believe he can blossom into a very talented NFL player.

After Sean Smith’s arrest for DUI, Ron Parker stepped into a starting spot for OTA’s. Another waiver claim right before the 2013 season, Parker (much like Cooper) seemed an unlikely candidate to make a significant impact for the Chiefs. Entering his third NFL season he had been cut five times already – three times by the Seattle Seahawks. His flashy special teams contributions and occasional moments of brilliance (see: week two vs. Dallas) led many to believe he may have finally carved-out a nice role for himself in Kansas City. At the very least, expect the former undrafted player from Newbury to compete for a starting job in 2014.

Signed as a free agent this offseason, Chris Owens looks like the favorite to play in the “nickel” spot for Bob Sutton’s defense. He was drafted 90th overall by Atlanta in 2009 but the Chiefs are now his fourth team in three years. Tasked with replacing veterans like Flowers and Dunta Robinson won’t be especially easy – the preseason should go a long way in telling whether or not he’s up to the task.

John Dorsey seemed thrilled to select Philip Gaines from Rice in the third round of the 2014 draft. The General Manager’s glowing remarks have instilled some confidence in a player most of us know very little about. Gaines had some minor struggles with suspensions in college, but was also a team captain held in high regard by the program. In a perfect world, he’ll establish himself in training camp/preseason as one of the top three corners on the roster and earn himself significant playing time as a rookie.

The remaining guys hoping to the roster:

So… yeah. Slim pickins, I’d say.

Make no mistake: cutting Brandon Flowers was a bold move that said more to me about the faith in players like Cooper, Parker and Gaines than it did about the veteran’s “fit” in the defense. Entering 2013, Flowers was widely considered one of the best corners in football. John Dorsey was able to save the Chiefs over $7 million in the move, money likely headed for Justin Houston’s bank account.

We’ve seen first-hand how the secondary and pass rush work in concert, so perhaps the faith in this young group of players is just as much a reflection of the team’s confidence in the front seven? The battle for depth chart supremacy might seem important, but the Chiefs will need every corner that makes the roster to have a significant impact at some point in 2014.

Prediction: Chiefs keep five – Smith, Cooper, Parker, Owens, Gaines
Starters: Cooper, Smith
Nickel: Parker
Rotational: Owens, Gaines

I recently broke-down the Defensive Line and Linebackers.
Our remaining Training Camp preview schedule looks like this:

July 20: Safeties
July 22: Kickers
July 24: Training Camp Begins

 

Don’t forget to check out my thoughts on the Chiefs offense:

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Offensive Line

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