We continue our evaluation of the Kansas City Chiefs roster by going back to the defensive side of the ball to look at Eric Berry.
The #5 overall pick came into the season with very high expectations from Chiefs Nation. As early as the preseason it was obvious that Berry had all the tools to be a very special player. He seemed to be all over the field, almost as if he was going at a different speed than everyone else.
The season began and the early reviews for Berry were mixed. He would be playing very well at one moment but then the next he would be making classic rookie mistakes. Berry seemed to excel in his run defense but his pass coverage left a lot to be desired. In the first quarter of the season Berry was burned in coverage on more than one occasion and his mistakes were reflected in his early season grades at Pro Football Focus.
As the season wore on, however, Berry seemed to settle down and he was making the highlights more often for making plays than making mistakes. When it was all said and done, Berry finished the season with 92 tackles, four interceptions, one forced fumble, two sacks and a TD. The rookie defended nine passes and racked up 102 interception return yards. Berry ended his season with a trip to the Pro Bowl.
Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, let’s go deeper with Pro Football Focus.
TD’s Given Up: 7
Berry tied two other safeties for first in the league in TD’s given up. That is to say, in PFF’s estimation, teams scored seven TD’s when throwing into Berry’s coverage. While that doesn’t sound good, I decided to go through Berry’s games to see if he really did get better in pass coverage throughout the season.
Here is what I found:
-2 TD’s against Berry came in his first ever pro game against the Chargers on Monday Night Football. Berry was abused in this game. The Chargers threw on him three times. Each ball was caught for a total of 73 yards and two touchdowns.
-1 TD against Berry came in his second ever NFL game against the Cleveland Browns. Again Berry was targeted three times and again Berry allowed all three balls to be caught for 117 yards. One of those catches went for 65 yards.
-In his third game against the 49ers Berry was not targeted. He played every defensive snap and was in a coverage situation 44 times.
-The Indianapolis game was a fine performance from Berry. He was targeted twice and gave up one catch and no TD’s.
-2 TD’s against Berry came in the Houston Texans game. He was targeted three times for 33 yards and the two TD’s. All three balls were caught.
-1 TD was scored on Berry in the Jacksonville game. Berry was targeted three times, allowing one catch for a nine yard TD to Mike Sims-Walker. This is also the game where Berry recorded his first NFL interception.
-In the Buffalo game, Berry was targeted five times, allowing three catches for 29 yards. Berry also recorded his 2nd pick of the season.
-In the Oakland game, Berry was targeted two times giving up zero catches.
-In the Denver contest, a game where the Chiefs secondary couldn’t cover anyone, Berry was targeted three times, allowing three catches for 26 yards but no touchdowns.
-In the Cardinals game Berry was targeted two times, allowing one catch for 24 yards while covering Larry Fitzgerald. Can’t blame him too much for that one.
-Against the Seahawks Berry was targeted twice, allowing one catch for 10 yards.
-In the second Denver game Berry was targeted twice and he defended both passes. He was covering Pro Bowl WR Brandon Lloyd on both occasions.
-In the second San Diego game the Chiefs got spanked but it wasn’t because of Eric Berry. Philip Rivers embarrassed Berry in his pro debut but this time it was Berry getting the better of Rivers. Berry was targeted three times, allowing only one catch of 10 yards to Vincent Jackson. The other time Rivers tried to throw to Jackson Berry picked him off. He also defended a pass intended for Malcom Floyd.
-Berry shined against fellow rookie Sam Bradford when the Chiefs went to St. Louis to face the Rams. Bradford foolishly targeted Berry seven times. Berry allowed only three catches for 18 yards.
-Berry turned in another solid effort against the Tennessee Titans, a game that unfortunately would be the last win of the seasons for the Chiefs. Berry was targeted seven times, allowing just three receptions for 40 yards. Berry was targeted five times while covering Jared Cook. Berry allowed Cook to catch one ball for 22 yards and another for six yards. Two other passes fell incomplete and Berry picked off the fifth.
-In the season finale against the Raiders, Berry was targeted three times, allowing three catches for 12 yards and one TD. This was Berry’s seventh and final coverage TD allowed. It was a five yard TD in red zone coverage.
In conclusion, Berry gave up six of his seven coverage touchdowns in the team’s first six games. His sixth coverage TD came against the Jaguars and he did not give up another score until the last game of the season. Keep in mind that Berry played every single defensive snap of every game including the playoff game and he was put in coverage situations often. Thus while he finished the season with a poor grade in coverage, he obviously improved significantly in the second half of the season.
Missed Tackles: 11
Stops (constitutes an offensive failure): 29
QB Pressures: 6
QB Hits: 4
Run Defense: +5
Pass Coverage: -0.9
Pass Rush: +3.6
*These grades include the playoff game against Baltimore. Berry’s pass coverage grade for the end of the regular season was -4.4 and his overall grade was +3.8. His regular season overall grade ranked him as the 20th best safety in the league grade-wise.
He played so well in the playoff game that he boosted his pass coverage grade to -0.9 and his overall all the way up to +7.5. In the playoff game, Berry received an overall grade of +3.7. He was credited for 10 tackles and five stops.
Here is an interesting bit about that game. Todd Heap straight up abused all of the Chiefs in coverage. He caught 10 balls for 108 yards. He was targeted 13 times all together.
While Berry was covering Heap, the TE was targeted seven times. Berry allowed Heap to catch five of those balls for 41 yards. Yet Berry received a +3.5 grade for covering Heap. While that may not seem to make sense it points to the detail with which Pro Football Focus grades these players. For instance, say on one play, Berry does a fantastic job of sticking to Heap and Flacco throws a very high ball and Heap, with Berry all over him, goes up and gets it. PFF isn’t going to grade Berry poorly for that play because in their estimation there was nothing Berry could have done to stop that play. Sometimes the other team just beats you with a good throw and catch despite very good coverage. We see it all the time.
Looking closer at Berry’s coverage of Heap we see that Eric allowed Heap only an average of 5.9 yards per reception with a long of 13 yards. Berry also defended one pass intended for Heap. By comparison, when it was their turn to cover Heap, Brandon Flowers allowed the TE an average of 6.5 yards per catch, Derrick Johnson allowed one 21 yard catch and Jon McGraw allowed three receptions for 33 yards and 11 yard average.
Berry is most certainly an ascending starter. While I think his Pro Bowl selection may have been a tad premature there is no question that Berry was playing at a Pro Bowl level during the second half of the season.
What should really excite KC fans is how quickly Berry seemed to adapt to the NFL. It took him only about six games before he really started taking his game to another level. He started making fewer mistakes and more big plays and that bodes well for the future as Berry continues to mature. He could be primed for a very, very big season next year and a very successful career.
I know this was a more in depth roster evaluation but then again, Berry is a very important player for the Chiefs. I thought it was important to look at his rookie season as closely as possible so we can continue to accurately evaluate his play in the future. I’ve been working on this all day which explains the lack of activity on AA today. Hope you enjoyed it.
Chiefs Roster Evaluation: