2 Days to Camp: Safety Eric Berry

I’m probably going to beat a dead horse on this issue because I had hoped to skip my pre-camp thoughts on Safety, Eric Berry. I’ve already made my position very clear on his overall abilities but that doesn't mean he’s not critical to the Chiefs defensive resurgence.

Let me state the obvious Kansas City Chiefs Safety, Eric Berry, is a Pro Bowl performer. He was one of the most highly touted players that came from the 2010 draft class and some believed the best safety prospect to come out of the draft in decades. Making the case for that were the plethora of scouts that drooled over his potential.

Still when it came time for then, General Manager, Scott Pioli, to make the call on the Chiefs first round selection he did so without hesitation. He felt Berry was considered the most can’t miss defensive prospect in this draft.

And when you consider Pioli’s lack of success in picking first round draft picks, Berry may go down as his best. Still that’s neither here nor there at the moment. What matters now is what Berry actually accomplishes this season in what could be his final year in a Chiefs uniform.

The debate on Berry is pretty simple. Like a smaller sized defensive end, that comes into the NFL with solid overall skills but lacks of size and girth, most of them get moved to outside linebacker. Thus they carry the stigma of being deemed a Tweener. Now we all know that’s not a word but it can be applied to Berry.

Last year, under the guidance of Defensive Coordinator, Bob Sutton, Berry played strong safety. That meant he played most of his snaps at the line of scrimmage. His job was to cover tight ends, support the run and on occasion blitz the quarterback.

Of those trio of duties, Berry’s biggest flaw was covering larger tight ends. As I’ve overstated, Berry isn’t the biggest of players. What he lacks in sure size and strength, he must make up for in positioning himself at the right spots on the field. When that occurs he has more than enough athletic smarts to be in position to make plays.

However a year ago, Berry just didn’t make enough of them. Making that even more perplexing, the Chiefs didn’t allow him top play the other safety position because they feared he wasn’t disciplined enough to be the teams center fielder. That’s not to say he didn’t accomplish some solid things for this defense in 2013. But I evaluate defensive players within a singular category, can they deliver in crunch time.

I’ve said this in all my previews when it comes to the erratic play of the Chiefs defensive players. Most of this unit is void of enough game changing defenders that can make a stop, get a sack, break up a key pass or snatch a game changing interception late in a game.

That might be unfair to say because there are eleven defenders on the field at all times but the Chiefs only chance to make the post-season in 2014 rests solely on their ability to get their high-powered offense back on the field as often as possible. Last year the entire defensive unit was carved up with ease over the final eight games of their season. As fans, it was horrific at times to watch. Even further with so much defensive talent on paper, it’s something that should have never happened.

Making it more frustrating to witness was the fact when KC’s offense found its Mojo, but the defense could not rise to the occasion and they fell flat on their backs after failing to either hold a lead late in a game or make that one vital stop. That can’t happen this season. So that means, Berry, more than any other defender on the field, has to make game changing plays.

The thing that’s always bothered me about Berry is despite a world of talent, he’s often in the wrong spot on the field or can’t make that one-on-one tackle that prevents a first down. With all the talent he possesses, that’s very difficult to accept.

Berry will be a free agent after the 2015 season and if he wants to stay with the Chiefs long term, he’s going to have to develop into a consistent defender. Should he do that this year, Berry can help the teams overall cause by restructuring the final year of his contract and convert that deal into a team friendly extension giving KC enough cap space to be aggressive in the free market next March.

After all, Berry did receive a five-year $65 million rookie contract that he restructured in 2011 to gain an extra year in 2015. But to say he’s earned every penny of those deals, isn’t reasonable to put in the affirmative category. Again, he’s a good player, who by merit has made a couple of Pro Bowls, but he’s not shown he can be an elite every game safety. In my view, he’s not worth the $11.6 million cap space he’s taking up in 2014.

However, I’m willing to give him another chance. He was part of the problem last season but he needs to elevate his game to become the solution in the Chiefs defensive secondary.

Should that happen, perhaps my opinion of his overall game will change. If he fails to do that, the Chiefs would save nearly $8.3 million in cap space by cutting him in the off-season.

In other words, he’ll be off the books and free to go elsewhere. Honestly for the Chiefs overall fortunes this season, I hope that doesn’t happen.

Next Up: Jamaal Charles




WARPAINT ILLUSTRATED MESSAGE BOARDS:
Do you still consider Eric Berry a long term fixture in KC?


For all the news, notes and quotes on the Chiefs, visit WarpaintIllustrated.com

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