Sean Smith is back. And it couldn't come soon enough.
The Kansas City Chiefs CB was suspended for three games as a result of a DUI last year and now he returns to the team. His loss was incredibly impactful for the Chiefs. The Chiefs are losing to the Green Bay Packers with or without Sean Smith; but the Denver Broncos? Yeah, that game cost them and it's an easy argument that Smith could have made the difference in the game there.
The Chiefs in Smith's absence lined up Marcus Peters and Jamell Fleming on the outside and Phillip Gaines on the inside. Making matters worse on Monday night, Gaines went out with an injury. That meant the Chiefs were relying on Tyvon Branch to play nickel against the dude who is playing quarterback at a higher level than perhaps we've ever seen. A sliiiight mismatch there.
Smith is in the final year of his contract before he hits free agency so he should be plenty motivated to have a big year. The Chiefs will need that.
A quick review of the corners during Smith's absence:
Marcus Peters: Great job. He's a rookie so my expectations were a little lower but he exceeded them. He has two picks and one touchdown. He has two rookie of the week nominations.
Phillip Gaines: Good overall but got hurt on Monday night. A knee sprain doesn't sound serious but an MRI is coming.
Jamell Fleming: Gave up three critical passes in one drive against Denver which led to him losing his role against Green Bay. One of the goats during Smith's absence.
Marcus Cooper: He played every snap against Green Bay but that did not go well. Granted, it was a tough spot considering he hadn't really played this season.
Tyvon Branch: Forced into an emergency nickel role in the Packers game. He was playing safety in subpackages before that.
Ron Parker: He played a little corner in the Broncos game when there was an injury but otherwise he was the safety.
Steven Nelson: The rookie has not been active this season. Based on Bob Sutton's comments last week, I think this is a redshirt year for Nelson.
Entering this year, I would have called the Chiefs secondary one of the deepest parts of the team. They went three deep with corners I liked (Smith, Peters, Gaines) which is unusual. They had two former Pro Bowlers to start the season on the second team at safety (Berry, Branch). I had a higher opinion of Fleming because he seemed decent for a fourth corner.
As it turns out, the Chiefs weren't as deep at cornerback as I thought. Sean Smith's return is a game changer.