E.J. Gaines is this close to solidifying himself as a starter on the Buffalo Bills' defense.
Two days after saying Gaines had the "upper hand," coach Sean McDermott doubled down on that Wednesday by saying "he continues to line up at the starting position right now, so we’ll continue to evaluate that as we go forward, but yeah, I feel good about E.J. right there."
The Bills felt so comfortable with Gaines they were willing to trade some of their cornerback depth away by sending Kevon Seymour to the Carolina Panthers.
"I'm excited," Gaines said after practice Wednesday. "Just hopefully I can keep, you know, keep pushing forward and making the coaches feel more comfortable with me out there."
Gaines has had less than a month to settle in after coming to the Bills from the Los Angeles Rams as part of the trade involving Sammy Watkins. It's the second time in two years he's had to pick up and move, following the Rams' relocation from St. Louis to Los Angeles after the 2016 season.
"It was just tough on my family," he said. "But after I got out here man, I've been here for a few weeks and I'm pretty settled in with the guys. Everything's going well."
Although he dealt with a couple minor injuries, Gaines' play in the preseason drew praise from the analytical minds at Pro Football Focus. He made the website's All-Preseason Team, with the following explanation provided: "In 38 coverage snaps, Gaines was targeted just five times this preseason, and it’s easy to see why when looking at the results. He surrendered just one catch for six yards, while notching a pick and two break-ups. Quarterbacks had a rating of 0.0 when challenging his coverage in August."
Preseason or not, that's pretty good.
"I definitely felt like I played well, but being a vet in the league, I know how it goes with preseason," Gaines said. "Everything steps up a notch from preseason to regular season to the playoffs, so I'm just trying to step up my game for these next 16 weeks."
Gaines said there are still some "small things" he still meets with the coaching staff on when it comes to learning a new defensive scheme, but that he's "pretty settled in." He also said he's 100-percent healthy after missing all of 2015 with a foot injury and dealing with assorted other bumps and bruises in 2016.
Sources of motivation won't be hard for Gaines to find in 2017. No. 1, he's entering the final year of his contract. There's also a part of him that surely wants to prove to the Rams that they quit on a good player.
"I'm a guy that plays with a chip on my shoulder at all times. Anybody who watches me play can pretty much see that," he said. "This is just a new time for me to show what I got. I'm excited to do that.
"Nothing's wrong with" the Rams' decision to trade him. "They don't have to want me. Somebody will. And the Buffalo Bills happened to be those guys, so I'm excited to be here."