Young Safeties Could be Game Changers

ST. JOSEPH, MO - In recent press conferences, head coach Todd Haley has expressed his coaching staff's lack of emphasis on draft status when it comes to evaluating who runs with the first team. With that being said, it should be viewed as a good sign that both rookie safeties Kendrick Lewis and Eric Berry have been taking snaps with the first team defense.

Despite being taken four rounds after the 5th overall draft pick Berry, Lewis has been one of the most impressive defensive players through seven days of training camp. Throughout OTAs and mini-camp, Lewis has impressed the Chiefs' coaching staff enough to demand a strong look for one of the opening day starting safety spots.

On Wednesday evening, Lewis introduced himself to nearly 9000 Chiefs fans in attendance to watch the late night practice. Despite the play of the day coming on a Dexter McCluster touchdown catch on Lewis' watch, the young safety easily stood out as the best player on the defensive side of the ball.

Wednesday night was not an aberration. Throughout camp, Lewis has been deflecting passes and, on one occasion, even snagging an interception in the endzone from Brodie Croyle. Lewis is still being shuffled in and out of the first and second team units, but his quick ascension up the depth chart speaks volumes to the Chiefs' 2010 draft.

Even though Lewis has been the most impressive safety in camp so far, all eyes this year will be on Berry. And for good reason -- Berry has the perfect combination of strength, smarts, athletic ability, and humbleness that could make him one of the greatest safeties to ever play the game.

Ability, however, is the key word. Ultimately, what will determine Berry's success will be Berry himself. But he seems to have the right mind set coming in. Before taking the field for his first official practice, Berry apologized to his teammates, and later told the media, " Yesterday was the first practice I have ever missed in my life…It hurt me".

It only took Berry one day to crack the starting lineup, but it will take the entire 2010 season to fully evaluate the young safety and determine if he was worthy of the high draft pick. At this point, however, Berry could not be any farther along than he is now, which is a very positive sign.

McGraw will likely back up the young safeties.
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Jon McGraw, for the most part, has been running with the first team and has looked very strong. As hard of a worker as McGraw is, I view him in a similar role as Mike Vrabel is to the young linebackers. McGraw is a crafty veteran who knows what it takes to make it in the NFL, and that experience is invaluable to this young group of safeties. His contributions to the special teams mixed with his solid play thus far in camp should secure McGraw a roster spot for at least one more season.

As far as Jarrad Page is concerned, I will take the same approach as Haley in discussing exclusively the players on the field. But I will say this: the Chiefs have some young, extremely fast, and talented young safeties who are having one hell of a battle to make the final 53. No other safety besides McGraw can match the playing experience of Page, but Page can simply not match the athletic abilities of this young crop of safeties.

If Page truly wants off this team, he should just sign the Chiefs offered tender. With emerging playmakers like DaJuan Morgan, Maurice Leggett, Reshard Langford, Ricky Price, and Donald Washington, it would be tough for Page to find a spot. These young players have shined in Page's absence and taken all his leverage away. The only option left for Page is to sign the tender today, forcing the Chiefs to either trade or cut him.

Every one of these players and coaches has put in overtime in the offseason for the advancement of this team. Showing up now would create a fervor in the locker room that this young team is just not prepared to handle. If Page had shown up for camp, all would have been forgiven. But after sitting out the last week, he has reduced his already slim list of options.

Regardless of Page's next move, one thing is for certain: the Chiefs will have some very tough decisions to make when trimming the roster to 53. Even if he were to put himself into the mix tomorrow, these young guys may have already done enough to make Page an afterthought in the mind of Emmitt Thomas and the rest the defensive coaches.

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