Many Kansas City Chiefs fans woke up yesterday morning and were greeted with the good news that two more members of their team were selected to the Pro Bowl. Tamba Hali and Eric Berry were added to the AFC roster when the Steelers advanced to the Super Bowl, meaning that Troy Polamalu and James Harrison would not be able to participate.
Hali making the Pro Bowl is widely viewed as justice being served after he finished the season second in the NFL and first in the AFC with 14.5 sacks. Berry on the other hand has been met with mixed reviews. Don’t get me wrong, I think all Chiefs fans are happy for Berry and think he is going to be a star. However, when you say someone is “going to be” something it implies that they aren’t there yet. I think the number one complaint is that Berry was too weak in coverage to really warrant making the Pro Bowl.
After the break I’ll explain why this Armchair Addict thinks that Berry not only deserves the honor this season but has a chance to be one of the best safeties in the entire NFL very soon.
First, let’s address Berry making the Pro Bowl this season. Each conference selects three safeties. Of those three there is always at least one Free Safety and one Strong Safety. Troy Polamalu was the only SS on the AFC roster. Brandon Meriweather and Ed Reed were the other two safeties. Ed Reed will not play due to injury and Michael Griffin was named as his replacement.
No one can argue Reed and Polamalu being in the Pro Bowl. Meriweather is another story. His 68 tackles, 0 sacks, 6 passes defended, 3 interceptions, 0 touchdowns, and 0 forced fumbles is well below all the other Pro Bowl caliber safeties, including Berry. If anyone wants to complain about an AFC safety making the Pro Bowl, Meriweather is the likely target. Griffin, who was named ahead of Berry, was also deserving with 108 tackles, 16 passes defended, and 4 interceptions.
So let’s look at Berry’s numbers compared to the other SS that had good years.
Berry: 92 tackles, 2 sacks, 13 passes defended, 4 interceptions, 1 TD, and 1 FF
There are three other AFC Strong Safeties that can make a strong case.
Donte Whitner: 140 tackles, .5 sack, 8 passes defended, 1 interception, 0 TD, 1 FF
TJ Ward: 123 tackles, 0 sacks, 12 passes defended, 2 interceptions, 0 TD, 1 FF
Tyvon Branch: 104 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 passes defended, 1 interception, 0 TD, 1 FF
The only thing these other players have on Berry is tackles. Ironic that what puts Berry ahead of these others are his passes defended and interceptions when his pass coverage is seen as the weakness of his game. He is also the only player of the four that scored a TD. Now could you make a case for one of these three to make it over Berry? Yes, but I don’t know if that case would be any stronger then the case for Berry. In other words, you can make a strong case that statistically Eric Berry was the second best SS in the AFC this year. He’s not the clear cut winner, but he is definitely as worthy as any of the others.
Not too bad for a rookie.
The other argument some would make against Berry is that what the numbers don’t show is the big plays or TDs he allowed. Fair enough, I can’t argue that he did make some mistakes, especially early in the year. That having been said, the player I saw on the field in the playoff game against the Ravens was a Pro Bowl caliber player. He was Polamalu-esqe in that he was all over the field. His stat line for that game included 10 tackles and 4 passes defended.
So the future looks bright for the Chiefs first round draft pick, but how bright?
There are three safeties in recent years that have been seen as elite game changers for their team: Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu, and Bob Sanders. Compare Berry’s numbers above with the numbers theses three put up in their first two seasons.
Ed Reed: Rookie: 85 tackles, 1 sack, 7 PD, 5 int, 0 TD, and 0 FF
2nd season: 71 tackles, 1 sack, 9 PD, 7 int, 1 TD, and 1 FF
Troy Polamalu: Rookie: 38 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 PD, 0 int, 0 TD, and 1 FF
2nd season: 96 tackles, 1 sack, 10 PD, 5 int, 1 TD, and 1 FF
Bob Sanders: Rookie: 34 tackles, 0 sacks, 1 PD, 0 int, 0 TD, and 0 FF
2nd season: 91 tackles, 0 sacks, 2 PD, 1 int, 0 TD, and 1 FF
So Berry’s rookie numbers hold up against (or are flat out better then) those of the three best safeties of this generation. In fact, Berry’s numbers are almost the same as Polamalu’s second full season.
So this Arrowhead Addict is going to go out on a limb and say that this isn’t going to be the last Pro Bowl for KC’s Eric Berry.
As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!