Two days on the practice field revealed a few truths to Dunta Robinson, one of the veteran cornerbacks signed by the Chiefs as a free agent to help them fortify their pass defense.
“We’re definitely going after the quarterback,” Robinson said. “That means us guys on the outside, us corners, we’ve got to hold up. We’re going to play a lot of man coverage. We’ve got to make sure we’re fundamentally sound and make sure we’re confident in what we’re doing, and we’ve got to go out there and make plays. They’re trusting us a lot in this defense.”
To play that kind of defense, the Chiefs’ new administration of general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid signed not just Robinson but also Sean Smith to join Brandon Flowers to be their top three cornerbacks.
Javier Arenas, who finished last season as the other starter, is now the fourth cornerback.
Flowers has been one of the Chiefs’ better defensive players since he arrived as a second-round draft pick in 2008. Robinson with Houston and Atlanta and Smith with Miami have also been starters.
Flowers was a starter for both of the two practices at this week’s minicamp, which will conclude Thursday. Robinson was the other starter Tuesday, Smith on Wednesday. Given the frequency with which the Chiefs use their nickel defense, all three players should get plenty of work.
“They definitely like guys coming in to compete, and that’s something I definitely do,” Smith said. “I know (assistant secondary coach) Al Harris from back in Miami, and I think I remember Coach Reid from when I was coming out in the draft. We’re definitely familiar with one another and they like my game.
“We went over the playbook and they told me what they want me to do and what they expect out of me. I said, ‘You know what? I’m more than willing to come out here and put the work in.’ We’ll see what happens from here.”
The Chiefs were at a disadvantage after midseason last year, when they released starting cornerback Stanford Routt. At that point, Flowers and Arenas, both 5 feet 9, were the starters, making for matchup nightmares against many of the league’s bigger receivers.
That’s part of what the Chiefs liked about Smith, who at 6-3 and 218 pounds is among the biggest cornerbacks in the league.
“Hopefully we can throw him on all the 6-4, 6-5 receivers,” Flowers said. “He’s a great cover guy, a long cover guy. He adds great depth to this defense. He helps us throw different calls out there. We’ve got guys that can match up all over the field. We’ve got, like, five corners that can play.”
The Chiefs didn’t just stop at signing one cornerback. They also liked Robinson, who played six seasons for the Texans and three for the Falcons, for his experience in the type of coverage the Chiefs intend to play.
“From my Houston days, it’s not much different,” Robinson said. “We were on an island a lot. My Atlanta days, we played a lot of zone defense. But it’s something I’m very familiar with. It’s not foreign to me.
“It’s just getting that confidence back up again. That’s all it is. When you’re outside on that island, it’s a lot of self-belief and making sure your technique and fundamentals are right. Getting those things back, that’s what this camp is great for.”
The new era brings change for Flowers. He’s been unchallenged as a starter since joining the Chiefs and even now has little reason to believe he will wind up watching as Smith and Robinson work as the regulars.
But the Chiefs have options now. Even if he starts, Flowers has moved to cover the slot receiver for the first two practices when the Chiefs go to their nickel defense, a new chore for him.
“We’re just working at everything now,” Flowers said. “They’re throwing a little bit towards everybody’s way right now. We’ll see what happens when the season comes what we’re going to do with it. Right now, they’re trying to make everybody uncomfortable and see how we react.”