Berry should start from Day 1

This is the first in a series of articles analyzing how Tennessee's draftees and free agent signees fit with their NFL teams.

Kansas City's selection of Eric Berry with the fifth pick in the recent NFL Draft was a perfect case of a team getting "the best player available" while also addressing a glaring need.

The Chiefs needed someone who could help a defense that ranked 31st among the 32 NFL teams against the run (156.5 yards per game) and 22nd against the pass (231.7 yards per game). In former Tennessee safety Eric Berry, KC got a player who can help tremendously in each area.

Berry proved his mettle as a pass defender in 2008, when he tied for the NCAA lead in interceptions (7) and led the NCAA with 265 return yards. Then he underscored his skills as a run stuffer in 2009. Playing almost a linebacker position, he recorded 87 stops, 7 tackles for loss and a forced fumble.

The dynamic Berry should start from Day One, given how suspect the Chiefs are at the safety positions.

Four-year veteran Jarrad Page, a 6-0, 225-pound free safety, played in just five games last fall before suffering a season-ending injury. He recorded 19 tackles but reportedly was in the head coach's doghouse even before being hurt.

The other veteran safety is Jon McGraw, a nine-year veteran who joined the lineup after Page went down and recorded 46 tackles with one interception.

The other safeties listed on KC's 2010 roster are three-year veteran DaJuan Moore (18 tackles, 0 interceptions last season), one-year veteran Ricky Price (3 tackles last season) and former Vanderbilt standout Reshard Langford, who did not play as a rookie last season.

The Chiefs released their 2008 starting strong safety, Bernard Pollard, last September. He is now with the Houston Texans. The Chiefs' 2009 strong safety, Mike Brown (103 tackles, 3 interceptions) is not listed on the roster for 2010.

Kansas City brass were so determined to upgrade their secondary that they selected two other defensive backs in the recent draft - Alabama cornerback Javier Arenas in Round 2 and Ole Miss free safety Kendrick Lewis in Round 5.

Kansas City went 4-12 last season, largely because its defense ranked 29th in points allowed (26.5 per game) and 30th in yards allowed (388.2). The arrival of Eric Berry should help shore up that defense a bit in 2010.

Although he returned four kickoffs for 100 yards at Tennessee last fall, Berry is a longshot to handle that duty for the Chiefs. Fellow rookie Arenas was considered by many to be the premier punt return man available in the 2010 draft after averaging nearly 14 yards per runback for Bama last fall. The electrifying McCluster also is viewed as a potential return specialist.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories