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2018 Buffalo Bills scouting report: cornerback Phillip Gaines

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The new Gaines on the block figures to be Buffalo’s starting nickel corner in 2018

The Buffalo Bills had a fantastic defensive secondary in 2017, as the entirely revamped unit outperformed the 2016 squad by any measure imaginable. With free agency making it incredibly difficult to keep rosters the same from year to year, the Bills parted ways with two key members of that secondary, E.J. Gaines and Leonard Johnson.

Both players were replaced via free agency, with the Bills signing veterans to step in at both outside and inside corner. In the latest installment of our “90 players in 90 days” series, we look at the man with a familiar surname who will most likely take over as Buffalo’s new nickel corner in 2018.

Name: Phillip Gaines

Number: 28

Position: CB

Height/Weight: 6’ 193 lbs.

Age: 27

Experience: 5

College: Rice

Draft: Drafted in the third round (87th overall) by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2014 NFL Draft

Financial situation (per Spotrac): Gaines signed a one-year deal at the veteran’s minimum; Spotrac lists his salary for the season at $835,000, but he will only carry a cap hit of $675,000 for the season.

2017 Recap: Gaines played on 38.06% of the Chiefs’ defensive snaps last season, and he played primarily in the slot. He played in 14 games, starting 3 of them, and combined to make 30 tackles and 3 pass break-ups on the season.

Positional outlook: Gaines looks as if he will have the first shot at becoming Buffalo’s slot corner in 2018. With Tre’Davious White and Vontae Davis appearing to have the starting jobs on the outside locked down, Gaines will battle with rookie Taron Johnson for time inside. Undrafted free agents Levi Wallace and Ryan Carter could also push for time in the slot if they impress during camp. Lafayette Pitts and Breon Borders round out the cornerback group. Rookie Siran Neal, listed as a safety, could also play as a slot corner/safety hybrid, similar to what Micah Hyde did as a member of the Green Bay Packers.

2018 Offseason: With Davis absent from Buffalo’s fifth OTA session last week, Gaines actually played on the outside with the first-team. He has worked as the first-team slot corner and as the second-team outside corner thus far.

2018 season outlook: If he is healthy, Gaines is a sneaky-good addition to Buffalo’s roster. That’s a big if, however, because Gaines has been placed on injured reserve twice in his four-year career, and he has a history of knee injuries that could certainly be of concern. The fact that the team signed him to a one-year deal at the veteran’s minimum makes this a good contract, but it makes him far from a lock to make the final roster. If younger players like Borders and Wallace outplay him during camp, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Buffalo go in a different direction. However, if he is healthy and plays to his potential, he will probably line up as Buffalo’s nickel corner in Week one.