1.) He hasn’t looked the same since that 2015 foot injury
Gaines had a great rookie year in 2014 filling in for CB Trumaine Johnson when he went down with a MCL injury. In 2015 though with raised expectations, Gaines suffered a Lisfranc injury in practice and missed the entire season.
Last year, he was hampered by lower body injuries early on, an outcome that’s frequent for players coming back from feet injuries. Being able to put full weight on the foot and resume a full range of motion can be hard to resume with confidence. Oftentimes, the player overcompensates for this in other ways physically that lead to injury. Like limping, but yanno...at much higher speeds and force.
The question is if Gaines can resume his pre-injury form. Hopefully, this year’s offseason allowed him to truly get back to full health and head into 2017 at 100%.
2.) He’s limited for size and speed
Gaines was a sixth-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft for a reason, chiefly his measurables. He’s too small to cover big men and too slow to cover burners. He is limited in his usage to zone packages and man coverage underneath.
So the range of what he can do is relatively small.
That being said...
3.) What he can do, he does well
There’s a reason Gaines beat out Brandon McGee in 2014. McGee was a fifth-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft who had a full year more expertise and coaching that Gaines. Gaines simply outplayed him to win the starting nod three seasons ago.
A blend of physicality and awareness, Gaines was always quick to the spot and in position. It was that ability to diagnose the development of the offensive play and his immediate ability to commit to the appropriate angle that had Rams fans, and spectators in general, impressed with his ability.
If he’s fully healthy and the Bills ensure they limit his exposure to situations where his lack of size and speed won’t be exploited, I won’t be surprised at all if he has a bounceback year in 2017.