It appears that Phillip Gaines is the Kansas City Chiefs current leader at the cornerback position opposite Marcus Peters. So what does that mean for Chiefs rookie cornerback KeiVarae Russell? A closer look at the nickel cornerback spot.
The Chiefs third round pick out of Notre Dame told reporters on Thursday he’s been seeing time at nickel and outside corner as well as some safety.
“So far they have tried me at the nickel and corner spot, so I’ve been trying to learn it all,” Russell said via quotes from the Chiefs. “Trying to learn the safety just in case somebody goes down in that position and they want me to play safety – I got to know that as well. So far, I’ve been trying to learn a little bit of nickel, a little bit of corner.”
Steven Nelson was the top nickel corner coming out of OTAs but that was also at a time when the Chiefs weren’t playing with pads on. Those pads will come on next week here at training camp so it will be very interesting to compare how Nelson and the rookie do when things
stop being polite and start getting real.
“You have to understand the formations,” Russell continued, “you have to understand what the quarterback is looking at, and if the receiver splits what it’s going to dictate and I think that's different now for me than as college player because you get so used to the college hash marks, college numbers, so for me it’s been tough. So it’s like ‘he’s outside the numbers’, but in college if he’s outside the NFL numbers he’s still inside the college numbers so that’s what’s tough as a college player the raw concepts are little different because the field is different.”
Russell also mentioned the advantage vets like Tamba Hali have in the league because it’s all about anticipating and what you know as opposed to the emphasis on athleticism.
“I’m playing against a guy like Alex Smith at practice who’s been here for like 10 years or something like that,” Russell said. “He’s had knowledge, he’s played against these top corners so I have to get used to what a guy like him sees, not just what any quarterback sees. A guy who’s been in the league, what do they see? So that’s been tough for me, but I’ve been coming to practice with the same approach: the hard work, being a sponge, keep repeating, and just try to take all of this information that they’re giving me.”
That’s what training camp is about. If Russell can carve out any sort of role where he’s on the field regularly this season, it will be a success.