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Chiefs' cornerback depth will be tested after loss of Steven Nelson

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Even before they lost starter Steven Nelson for at least half of the season, it felt like the Kansas City Chiefs were a bit short at cornerback.

They had Marcus Peters and five other corners on their roster before Nelson was placed on the injured reserve list. Five started at least one game for the Chiefs last season.

That hardly seemed enough, considering the Chiefs will open their season Thursday night against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

Judging by their actions -- last week they looked into signing veteran Joe Haden when he was briefly a free agent -- the Chiefs seemed to agree.

"It's hard to find a team in the league that isn't looking for more corners," Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said. "You can't have enough of those at that position."

Yet the rest of their actions say the Chiefs are content with what they have at cornerback. They didn't draft one, though they briefly looked at sixth-round pick Leon McQuay at corner before returning him to his collegiate position of safety. They didn't sign a free-agent corner.

They're counting on improvement from a young group. Peters is 24. The old man of the group is Phillip Gaines, who could replace Nelson in the starting lineup. Gaines, the Chiefs' third-round draft pick in 2014, is 26.

"We're happy with the group we have, especially being led by one of the best in the game in Marcus Peters," Veach said. "But all of our guys have progressed and made improvements. I think you saw that from Phillip Gaines this offseason, I think we were all excited about his rookie year and then he had the knee [injury]. But him coming back this year and really putting out some good tape, we're excited about that."

Gaines was a starter to begin the season in 2015 but tore an ACL early on. He returned last season and started five games but never seemed right the whole season. He didn't start in any of the season's last five games.

The Chiefs could also turn to Terrance Mitchell as a starter. They picked him up last season after he had been discarded by three NFL teams.

But Mitchell worked his way into the third cornerback role by midseason and played well down the stretch and in the playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Chiefs have two other cornerbacks, Kenneth Acker and D.J. White.

Brady and the Patriots are going to test the Chiefs in the secondary no matter which cornerbacks are in their lineup. That's particularly true now that Nelson is out, so the Chiefs may be in the market for a cornerback even if it's too late for him to help against the Patriots.

"We're excited about where we are at that position," Veach said. "But with the cornerback position, as at all these positions, if we can add someone that can make us better we'll do that.”