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Chiefs build depth at cornerback through camp competitions

Saturday, July 26, 2014 | 5:16 p.m. CDT; updated 5:44 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 26, 2014
Kansas City Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman, right, attempts to catch a pass under pressure from safety Eric Berry during training camp Saturday in St. Joseph.

ST. JOSEPH — Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid is serious about what he has said about competition at the cornerback position.

Sean Smith, last year's starter at right cornerback, moved to the second team for the last four days of organized team activities. His status hasn't changed three days into training camp.

"We look at Sean as a first-team player," Reid said. "We need all those guys and we need two-deep at the corner where we feel like that two-deep is equivalent to starting players. That's where we're looking."

The Chiefs are in transition following a 2013 season where the defense ranked 25th against the pass (247.6 yards per game).

Another factor for changes might have been the memory of blowing a 38-10 third-quarter lead en route to a 45-44 playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

Gone from last year's roster are safeties Kendrick Lewis and Quintin Demps, and cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Dunta Robinson. Kansas City used a third-round pick on Phillip Gaines and entered training camp with 11 cornerbacks.

Second-year pro Marcus Cooper has moved to Smith's place with the starters on the right side, with fourth-year pro Ron Parker settling in at left cornerback.

Smith took the demotion in stride.

"At the end of the day," he said. "I control my own destiny. As long as I come out here and compete, work hard and be the same guy I've been in the past, I'll be alright."

Smith, who enters his sixth season with 71 career starts, takes on a mentorship role.

"One thing about us," Smith said, "we're very tight as a unit. We come out here and compete, we push each other. I'm very supportive regardless who it is. Whether I'm first string, second string, it doesn't matter."

Parker agreed.

"Nothing has changed with us," Parker said. "We're still working and competing every day like nobody has a starting job."

Cooper's presence with the first-team defense doesn't come as a surprise considering he started six games in 2013. However, the 26-year-old Parker is another story.

The Chiefs are Parker's fourth team since he entered the league in 2011 as an undrafted free agent out of Newberry College with the Seattle Seahawks. He also had stints with the Oakland Raiders and Carolina Panthers, mostly as a practice squad player.

Parker, who joined the Chiefs on Sept. 1, 2013, off waivers from the Seahawks, has appeared in 26 career games with one start, the latter coming last season in Week 17.

Despite the lack of NFL starting experience, Parker has been with the first team for 10 straight practices since the final week of organized activities.

"It's meant a lot to me," Parker said of his opportunity. "I've been having sleepless nights this offseason, couldn't wait to get back just to be out here, ready to take on anything."

Parker offers versatility as a converted college free safety and he played cornerback in high school. He possesses 4.36 40-yard dash speed.

Parker is confident his experience fits what the Chiefs require of cornerbacks in defensive coordinator Bob Sutton's scheme.

"I feel like I can just be interchangeable with anything they ask me to do," he said.

The Chiefs face some of the NFL's best quarterbacks in 2014, including Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, and Ben Roethlisberger, and two AFC West meetings against Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers.

The Chiefs have time before the start of the regular season to allow the cornerback competition to work itself out.

But knowing what's in store this season could expedite the Chiefs' decision to allow the duo to get comfortable.

"It's real important to come together in the secondary in training camp," Parker said. "Mainly, we have to get the communication down and everybody get on the same page and play together. Once we get that down pat, that's what training camp is for."

Reid likes what he's seen out of Parker and Cooper with the first-team defense, and Smith with the backups.

"All three I thought did a good job today," Reid said.


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