Chiefs’ Phillip Gaines, Steven Nelson emerge as early frontrunners for CB spots

June 1, 2016; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs cornerback Phillip Gaines goes through drills during OTAs at the team's training facility. (Rex Wolf/The Topeka Capital-Journal)
June 1, 2016; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs cornerback Phillip Gaines goes through drills during OTAs at the team’s training facility. (Rex Wolf/The Topeka Capital-Journal)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Ten days of organized team activities (OTAs) and three days of mandatory minicamp left Chiefs coach Andy Reid feeling good with the team ahead of training camp.

“All in all, we finished up the offseason program,” Reid said Thursday. “I was happy with the progress we made, saw some good things.”

One of those areas that had Reid pleased is the cornerback position.

Second-year pro Marcus Peters is locked in as a starter on the left side. But competition has been heavy at nickel corner and right cornerback, which was left vacant after Sean Smith signed a free-agent deal with the Oakland Raiders.

With 13 days of on-field work in the books, the Chiefs officially have frontrunners at both positions.

“I’d probably tell you (Steven) Nelson probably came out as the first nickel out of this for right now, now he took snaps at the corner, too,” Reid said. “And then (Phillip) Gaines, I think when it’s all said and done, he’ll probably be the guy out at the corner spot.”

The 5-11, 194-pound Nelson enters his second season, while the 6-0, 193-pound Gaines enters a third season.

Gaines, who returns from an ACL injury, was eased into action during OTAs before he saw increased repetitions with the first-team defense during minicamp.

Nelson saw limited action last year in his rookie season while he learned to play inside.

But Nelson has come on strong since reporting for the offseason workout program and consistently made plays with the first-team unit working outside in the base defense or inside in the nickel package.

Nevertheless, the competition is far from over, especially right cornerback.

The Chiefs used three draft picks on rookie cornerbacks KeiVarae Russell, Eric Murray and D.J. White to bolster depth.

And fourth-year pro Marcus Cooper, who also took repetitions at safety during OTAs and minicamp, should be heavily involved as the Chiefs look for Smith’s replacement.

“Coop(er) had some good snaps out there and Nelson had some good snaps,” Reid said. “We’ll just see how it goes.”


Herbie Teope is the lead Chiefs beat writer for The Topeka Capital-Journal and Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.