While all of Kansas City is anxiously awaiting the return of Eric Berry this season, there is a pretty good chance Berry will get out of the gate slowly in 2012.
This isn’t a knock on Berry’s talent, skill level or dedication. In fact, even a rusty Berry will probably be better than many starting safeties in the NFL. He’ll definitely be an upgrade over the “Bum Parade” that started at SS for the Chiefs last season.* He’s a difference-maker with great football instincts and athletic prowess and a year off from football isn’t going to change that.
*All due respect to Quick Draw McGraw.
But even the best players can get rusty after missing an entire season.
Berry’s injury couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time. While he was coming off a Pro Bowl, Berry’s rookie season was far from perfect. He flashed his play-making abilities, recording four interceptions (often at key times), 92 tackles, one forced fumble and nine pass defenses.
But Berry also had his struggles as a rookie. According to Pro Football Focus he struggled in pass coverage early, which caused him to end the season with a -0.9 grade overall, though it should be noted that he improved in that area down the stretch. He had a stretch from Week 10-17 where is overall grades were +0.9, -0.3, +0.1, +0.8. +0.5, +0.6, -1.2. That is seven weeks of fairly average play. Berry responded in the Chiefs’ playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens, however. He turned in his highest grade of the season with a mark of +3.7.*
*Berry also scored a +3.7 for his game against the Jaguars in Week 7.
The up and down performances were to be expected from a rookie. Adjusting to life in the NFL is tough and Berry’s triumphs and failures his rookie year reflected the reality of his situation. He was an incredibly talent player with a very bright future sometimes suffering lapses in consistency due to inexperience.
The 2011 season would have likely been a much more consistent season for Berry, as well a chance to begin plugging the holes in his game. He was the only Chiefs player to start every single defensive snap in 2010 and he would be entering his second year in Romeo Crennl’s defense. Unfortunately, after only a handful of plays, Berry’s season was over.
The question is, how much, if any, of a backslide will Berry have in 2012?
I think we can expect some more ups and downs for Berry throughout the first quarter of the season. He’ll not only be shaking off the rust but he’ll also face overcoming any uncertainty he may have about the stability of his newly reconstructed ACL.
Berry has been playing football his entire life so it likely won’t take him long to get his legs back under him but considering his inexperience at the NFL level, combined with the seriousness of the injury from which he is returning, it might be wise for fans to expect four or five games to go buy before Berry is able to go full-throttle.
The good news for Berry is that he is returning to a defense that finished 11th in the NFL without his services.
What do you think Addicts? Will Berry get off to a slow start or will he put a clown-suit on me and pick up where he left off against the Baltimore Ravens in the playoff game?