The Chiefs brought 19 defensive backs to training camp, giving them far more bodies in the secondary than at any other position.
But when starting cornerback Brandon Flowers left the lineup recently with a bruised foot, they turned to a safety, Travis Daniels to take his place. That doesn’t bode well for their chances if either Flowers or their other starting cornerback, newcomer Stanford Routt, encounters a long-term injury.
Flowers, who was injured in Tuesday night’s practice, won’t be out long. He didn’t practice on Thursday but he could return as soon as Friday.
“We’ll treat it and rest it and then he’ll get back out there pretty soon, hopefully,” coach Romeo Crennel said.
Neither Flowers nor the Chiefs’ other starting cornerback last season, the departed Brandon Carr, missed a game in 2011, so depth at cornerback hasn’t been a recent issue for the Chiefs. It also means they’re due to need an extra cornerback or two this season.
The Chiefs don’t lack for bodies. Among their choices are Javier Arenas, Jalil Brown and a bunch of young, developmental prospects.
The Chiefs believe Arenas, their 5-foot-9 nickel back, is too small to play as a regular cornerback. But Brown, a rookie last season, could eventually figure into their plans.
“We have a large number of defensive backs on the team, more safeties probably than corners,” Crennel said. “We probably have more than we’ve had going into camp around here in awhile. (Flowers) is a good player. Routt is learning the system and I think he has good ability and will be a good player for us. Javier has been with us. Travis Daniels has been with us. Jalil Brown showed some improvement last year. We feel good about those guys.”
Daniels started at cornerback as a rookie for Miami in 2005 but has largely been a backup since then. In 2009, after he joined the Chiefs, he started just twice. Otherwise, he’s been mainly a special-teams player.
When he did get into the game on defense, it almost always was as an extra cornerback. He played exclusively at safety in the spring when starters Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis were on the sidelines rebabbing from injuries.
“We were working him primarily as a safety and a (nickel back), but if had to go in at corner, he goes in at corner and holds his own because he’s a heady veteran,” Crennel said. “He knows the ability of the receiver … he understands the routes, knows when a guy needs to make his breaks. He can tell you what route the guy is going to run, pretty much.
“He knows every position. He’s a pro. He understands every rep is important. He’s in tune to the game, he’s in tune to practice. Every time he gets the chance to go out there, he goes out there. He’s watching all of them, and if one of them decides he needs to come out, he’s in there. I have to pull him back sometimes.”
Daniels said he knew long ago that being able to play many positions would be the key to having a long career — in college and in the NFL.
“I learned that in college,” Daniels said. “Coming out of high school, I was ranked one of the top defensive backs, and when I got to LSU, I realized everybody had the same type of talent. Everybody was (ranked) number one from where they were from. So early on I learned I can’t rely on just playing corner.
“Coming into the NFL, that was my same mentality. The competition just gets better. So the more you can do, the longer you can stay.’’
Brown played in 14 games last season as a rookie, mostly on special teams.
“We’re going to find out how much he’s ready for,” Crennel said. “He improved toward the end of last year. I think he’s shown good ability. He’s at the point where we’re ready to find out what he can do and what he brings to the table.”
Brown, a fourth-round pick from Colorado last year, has played well in camp.
“I feel a little more comfortable this year,” he said. “I have a year under my belt and I know what to expect. I’ve seen a year of the NFL. I’ve seen the speed of the game, the intensity of the game and what the coaches are asking for, so I’m prepared this year to keep going faster.”