KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs added reinforcement to their maligned secondary Monday afternoon by activating cornerback Steven Nelson from injured reserve. Nelson could make his 2017 season debut as early as Monday night against the Denver Broncos.
Nelson battled a groin injury during much of training camp and the preseason. He did play in three of the team’s preseason games, tallying six tackles and pass defended. The team placed Nelson on injured reserve Sept. 3 with a core muscle injury.
The 24-year-old Nelson returned to practice this week leading up the Broncos game. Today marks the earliest the Chiefs could activate the cornerback from injured reserve.
The Chiefs planned during the offseason for Nelson to serve as their starting right cornerback, then moving into the slot when the Chiefs enter substitution packages including fifth and sixth defensive backs. Nelson’s injury forced the Chiefs to shuffle their lineup, moving Terrance Mitchell into the starting role at right cornerback and using Phillip Gaines as a slot nickel back.
Nelson played in 15 games last season while picking up 58 tackles and breaking up 16 passes. The Chiefs have allowed an average of 272 yards passing per game this season. That’s up 25 yards per game from last season. He thrives covering the slot receiver, yielding just 0.98 yards per route covered last season according to Pro Football Focus. He averaged 2.08 yards per route allowed outside the slot.
If Nelson returns for Monday night, the Chiefs could use him in a limited role as nickel back while keeping Mitchell on the right side opposite Marcus Peters.