KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs cornerback Steven Nelson could rejoin his teammates for practice this week and return to the club’s secondary next Monday night against the Denver Broncos, providing a welcome sight for head coach Andy Reid.
“Not that the other guys haven’t done a good job in there and that we won’t need him.” Reid said. “We need everybody, that’s just how it goes. That’s the NFL. We welcome him back in there.”
Nelson’s return could come a week earlier than expected due to NFL procedural rules. Players placed on injured reserve cannot be activated until eight weeks pass from the time the club placed them on the reserve list. The Chiefs placed Nelson on injured reserve Sept. 3. The eight-week deadline passes on Oct. 29.
If they Chiefs played Sunday, Nelson could not return this week.
Nelson’s potential return comes at a time when the Chiefs secondary appears entering its most desperate hour. The pass defense without Nelson and safety Eric Berry continues suffering. The Oakland Raiders piled up 417 passing yards in their 31-30 come-from-behind victory against the Chiefs Thursday night.
The return of Nelson potentially provides the Chiefs secondary a valuable cover corner missing from the team’s lineup opposite All-Pro Marcus Peters.
“You can’t have enough of those secondary guys, those corners and that position there, guys that can cover,” Reid said. “You see how this league is and these receivers are. You need to have as many of those guys as you can in there. We’ll welcome him back in there as long as he can go.”
The effort to shore up the pass coverage without Nelson and Berry led the Chiefs to play increasingly in nickel and dime coverages. Inside linebacker Reggie Ragland played just 9 snaps against the Raiders, accounting for just 11 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. The Chiefs play without a fourth linebacker often to give additional secondary help with cornerback Phillip Gaines or safety Eric Murray.
According to statistics compiled by ESPN, the Chiefs yield a league-worst 8.1 yards per play while in nickel substitution package.
Reid avoids placing all the blame on the team’s secondary.
“We can do a little bit better on getting pressure on them and cover,” Reid said. “There’s all different kinds of areas. We can put them into better positions to do it. It’s kind of a little bit of everything.”
The coach also does not see any reason for his team to panic quite yet.
“You go back, you’re able to step back and look at things and you go, ‘All right, you’re 5-2, you’re in pretty dang good position,'” he said. “Had a couple of hiccups here although were close. Doesn’t really count in this thing, but we’re close, and you’re an inch away. So you got to tweak a couple of things here and there and that’s what you go about doing.”