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Analysis: Buffalo Bills cornerback E.J. Gaines

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Third time’s the charm right? RIGHT? Please let it be right.

They say that nothing in life is certain except death, taxes, and the Buffalo Bills adding E.J. Gaines. Now entering his third stint with the Bills the hope is that he can remain healthy and productive. At age 28, the primary concern has been injuries but maybe the third time will actually be the charm. There’s not a ton of video to go from for analysis as Gaines was placed on injured reserve on August 10th, 2019. That was two days after Buffalo’s first preseason game and he did not return to play last season. With such little film to go from, let’s do this analysis a bit differently.


November 2017

After seeing E.J. Gaines in live action in the Buffalo defense, Leslie Frazier was asked about the starting corner. Frazier heaped praise on Gaines and discussed his vision and noted he “has some ball skills as wells.” Gaines’ willingness to take on any opponent, with Travis Kelce specifically mentioned, was cited as a major positive. Go ahead and read the full comments from coach Frazier. They illustrate what the Bills see in Gaines and why they keep bringing him back.

February 2018 all-22 Analysis

Following Gaines’ first year in the league we took a look back as we often do. Quickly summarized, I felt that E.J. Gaines was a perfect fit for the Buffalo defense. It was noted that Gaines didn’t possess any uncanny athleticism but his ability to master the Bills’ scheme made him a high-level starter. Injury concerns were noted as the primary negative.

On this play I praised Gaines for knowing where his help was and trusting Micah Hyde to make a play.

March 2019 All-22 analysis

E.J. Gaines was signed by the Cleveland Browns for the 2018 season before coming back to Buffalo. So of course we wanted to know what he was up to in his year away from Western New York. Gaines was injured in Cleveland, appearing in six games and starting only two. With his limited action as a disclaimer, the film looked just as good as it did the year before.

Here, Gaines’s awareness and timing are impeccable.

July 2019 cornerback comparison

While it was clear that Tre’Davious White would be locking down one side, the second cornerback spot was in question for much of last offseason. Comparing the three top names in consideration the conclusion was that Levi Wallace would likely start over E.J. Gaines and Kevin Johnson. It wasn’t due to playing ability though, and for the record I do like Wallace quite a bit. Gaines was labeled as the most “cerebral player” of the trio and his past success in the McDermott/Frazier scheme was notable as well.

2019 Preseason

I alluded above to there being little film of Gaines during the 2019 preseason. How little? Well...none actually. Gaines reportedly injured his groin on August 4th during practice. That was four days prior to their first preseason game.


Summary

The cumulative effect of injuries is really the biggest question for E.J. Gaines. As mentioned, he’s young enough where he should be considered in his prime. The fact he’s never played an entire season, and only gone beyond eleven games once, is certainly a concern though.

Assuming he hasn’t lost a step, E.J. Gaines is a great gamble. The fit to scheme is hard to overlook. This will be even more beneficial in what could be a shortened offseason of practice. Not only for his own play, but Gaines should be able to reinforce coaching points to the rest of the defensive backfield. And besides he’s gotta be due for a healthy year at some point, right?