KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs offered a new look at the cornerback positions against the San Diego Chargers in Week 7 and the early returns showed success.
Third-year pro Jamell Fleming started at left cornerback in place of Marcus Cooper, while rookie Phillip Gaines started at the nickel position for Chris Owens, who sat out with a knee injury.
It appears the Chiefs are likely to stick with that formula Sunday against the St. Louis Rams.
“There’s a chance we’ll do that,” Reid said Wednesday. “There were some good things that Fleming did. He settled down as the game went on. His juices were flowing early. Gaines did a good job on the inside, and when he had chances on the outside, he did a nice job there. I came out feeling positive about it. Is there room to improve? We have to continue to get better there.”
Part of the improvement surrounds a team willing to shake up a starting roster if required.
The 5-11, 206-pound Fleming said he found out Friday he would start against the Chargers, and he rewarded the Chiefs with a team-leading six tackles.
While he drew two pass interference penalties, Fleming settled down as the game wore on after Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers appeared to go after Fleming early in the contest.
“I knew they were going to come pick on me at the beginning of the game,” Fleming said, “especially when you walk on the field and they’re like, ‘Oh, he’s not that dude we were watching on film.’ I kind of knew they were going to do that, so really I just came in there and tried to be confident.”
With a game as a starter for the Chiefs under his belt, Fleming now has an opportunity to become an every week starter.
He understands the significance of his extended playing time last week and what needs to be accomplished going forward to continue earning the coaching staff’s trust.
“Just keep working hard,” Fleming said, “keep showing up on tape and make plays, and just being confident out there so I can give them confidence I can play.
The Chiefs signed Fleming from the Baltimore Ravens practice squad on Sept. 12, leaving no room for a learning curve as he settled in on defense.
But Fleming brought familiarity to a press-man scheme, as he said he played that technique at Oklahoma and with the team that made a third-round pick of the 2012 NFL Draft.
“My first year with the Cardinals,” Fleming said, “we kind of run the same scheme they’re running here. So just being able to go back in the memory bank and remembering things we did before.”
Meanwhile, Gaines should continue holding down the nickel cornerback position with Owens nursing a knee injury.
The Chiefs’ third-round pick made a couple of nice plays on defense, including breaking up a pass in the end zone intended for Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen.
Gaines admitted he made mistakes in his first career start, but said studying film will hopefully assist in his improvement.
And knowing what needs to be done before watching the tape should help.
“Just playing with my look a little more,” Gaines said. “Showing off coming down, don’t set the defense before the line gets out. Just little things like that. Keeping my leverage and everything, there’s always something you can work on.”