The Buffalo Bills have signed former Kansas City Chiefs slot corner Phillip Gaines. Drafted by the Chiefs in the 2014 NFL Draft with the 87th pick (third round). In four years with Kansas City, Gaines has appeared in only 41 games and started 16 of these. Primarily used in the slot role with the Chiefs, the Bills could be looking to fill the spot occupied by Leonard Johnson in 2017.
Gaines has a fairly substantial injury list, being placed on IR during two of his four seasons. An ACL tear in September of 2015 robbed him of most of that season. Knee injuries have followed Gaines since and could be a long-term concern. In Week 17 of the 2017 season, an elbow injury sidelined Gaines before the Chiefs playoff appearance. What can Bills fans expect from the team’s newest addition?
Phillip Gaines was primarily used as a man-to-man corner by the Chiefs in 2017. This makes translating what he’ll do for the Bills a little harder, but we have some good takeaways regardless. First, let’s talk “upside.” Initially Phillip Gaines bites to the inside and hesitates to cover his man which isn’t great. However, he was fast enough to recover and shadows the route pretty well. This kind of coverage wasn’t common, but does provide an excellent look of Gaines’ ceiling.
This is closer to the expectation for Gaines. At the top of the route the receiver gains pretty easy separation. Trying to cut back and recover, Gaines makes it worse and stumbles. The injury history may be partially to blame, but Gaines struggles changing direction with receivers. This is problematic for slot corners who are often tasked with shadowing shiftier opponents.
Gaines is locked onto Cordarelle Patterson from the start, but shows poor fluidity from the hips up. Notice Phillips’ position effectively wipes himself out of the play as well. He cuts off his sight to the QB and also his path to preventing a catch should the ball come their way.
Some more good things on this play. The first pause is to show Gaines communicating with his teammates. Gaines is an active communicator which is generally a positive. Gaines also delivers a shot to left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo and disrupts his momentum convincingly, especially considering the approximately 120-pound difference.
Like Gaines’ speed is held back by poor agility, his strength is limited by technique. Poor upper body alignment and overall positioning make this a clean loss on the block. Gaines also struggles disengaging.
Gaines struggles in man coverage and the implication would be a significant downgrade from Leonard Johnson in the slot from 2017. In zone coverage, Gaines displayed much better potential. Take that with a grain of salt or ten though, as Kansas City only sparingly had Gaines in zone coverage to base an opinion off of. In the play above, Kansas City shows man with Gaines mirroring the motion. However, as the play crosses the middle (first pause) Gaines bails and drops back to cover the zone behind him. He puts himself in good position relative to that receiver. As the play develops he shows good speed getting back to the ball. If Gaines intends to challenge for a starting job in the slot, he’ll have to build off of these positives and show that he can consistently show up well in a zone defense.