As we sat covering training camp before the season started I remember talking with Danny Parkins and Carrington Harrison on 610 Sports about what kind of role Phillip Gaines would have. Danny thought Gaines would have to be the third or fourth corner by the time the year was over. My expectations were lower in year one considering there were so many players ahead of him and where he was on the depth chart. He was / is a young guy who still needed to get stronger so I just didn't think of him as an option to contribute regularly early on.
Here we sit in Week 7 and Gaines, who has made some terrific plays as a special teams player this season, was finally given the opportunity last Sunday to play regularly, notching 34 snaps in the win over the Chargers. And you know what? Gaines was pretty darn good in his role. Let's not go crowning him or anything because it's barely half the snaps in just one game but the evidence shows that Gaines rose to the challenge to allow zero catches on five passes thrown in his direction by Philip Rivers.
Pro Football Focus highlighted him here. Gaines was playing the nickel, which is not easy. It's a difficult position because you don't have the sideline to play off of. He saw some time there during training camp.
Gaines was playing in this game because the regular nickel back (horrible band) Chris Owens suffered a knee injury a few weeks ago. Owens could be back as soon as this weekend against St. Louis depending on how his injury heals. Gaines playing well here could take the pressure off of Owens' return just a little bit. At least it takes it off for me -- I'm not as worried about Owens' absence, and you know I spent a lot of time last week fretting about that injury because I wasn't sure how they would replace him.
I don't know how things will shake out when Owens returns. I would still defer to the veteran but it's great news for the Chiefs that Gaines played well in this game. This gives them more options if others injuries come up which will happen at some point. I imagine a game like that for a player like him, who was not an immediate starter, does wonders for his confidence level.