Chiefs could be relying on Marcus Peters even more next season

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- In a matter of days, if not hours, Marcus Peters could be the Kansas City Chiefs' most experienced and unquestioned No. 1 cornerback. The other starter, Sean Smith, will be a free agent beginning Wednesday afternoon and have the option of signing with another team.

If Smith does leave the Chiefs, Peters is OK with the increased expectations and responsibilities that he would have to bear in 2016.

"It's going to be different next year," said Peters, the Chiefs' 2015 rookie of the year after he tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with eight. "Expectations are going to be high [and] it's going to be different. That's just [football]. If I can get eight picks again, let's do it. I'm shooting for more. But I'm just getting started to a career. I'm just going to continue to have fun with it and go win some games for my teammates.

"That brings the excitement. If people are expecting a lot, you go out there and be yourself. It doesn't change you at all. People's expectations shouldn't challenge you personally. I've had goals that I set on myself as a child that exceed the expectations of what the media puts out there."

The Chiefs, who were thin at cornerback last season even with Smith in their lineup, will almost certainly sign a veteran free agent at the position if he leaves. They may also draft a corner in an early round. In terms of cornerbacks other than Smith with significant NFL experience, the Chiefs have Peters and Phillip Gaines, who missed most of last season with a torn ACL.

Whatever the Chiefs do, they will lean heavily on Peters. The Chiefs are comfortable he can handle that. It's why they drafted him in the first round last year, even though he was thrown off the team during his final collegiate season at Washington.

"He's done a nice job with the responsibility we gave him this past year," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "He handled things the right way."

Acknowledging his troubled past, which included confrontations with coaches at Washington, Peters in accepting his rookie of the year award at a news conference over the weekend thanked the Hunt family for taking a risk on him.

"I've got so much love for the organization," Peters said. "They welcomed me with open arms and there [weren't] a lot of questions about what was going on at Washington. They just wanted to know, are you ready to play ball?"

The Chiefs, who went to Oakland to visit with Peters' family before last year's draft, didn't see it as that much of a risk.

"We thought we narrowed the risk by doing our homework," Reid said. "He's a coach's kid. He's got an explosive personality, which is a good thing. That's what makes him so competitive. He'll grow as time goes on into knowing when to allow that to happen and when not to allow that to happen.

"The sky is the limit for him.”

Peters' rookie season was as spectacular as the Chiefs dared to hope. He turned a defense that had trouble forcing turnovers in 2014 to one that was second in the league in interceptions in 2015.

Peters had an interception on the first play of his career, had two pick-sixes during the season and had a ninth interception in the Chiefs' playoff win over the Houston Texans.

But opposing quarterbacks also picked on him a lot. They threw a lot of passes his way and while Peters made his share of big plays, he allowed many as well.

"The double moves got him a little bit," Reid said. "He'll get better. He's got great anticipation and instincts and the more he sees them, the better he'll be.

"The one thing I love about him is that if he makes a mistake, he comes back at you 110 miles an hour. I love that. He's got a short memory. At that position, you have to do that."

Peters pledged that would continue regardless of whatever changes the Chiefs make around him.

"I'm just going to play my game and it doesn't matter whether I'm the one or two [cornerback]," he said. "I'm going to make my plays."