Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry has struggled in his first season back from an ACL injury but if his grades from Pro Football Focus are any indication, he is well on his way back.
Players coming off an ACL injury often take an entire season before they are “back to normal.” The process was even worse for Berry because he only had one year of NFL experience under his belt before missing the entire 2011 season with the injury.
Berry started slow as a rookie but as the season wore on, his play began to improve. He began making a number of impact plays that helped the Chiefs win the AFC West in 2010 and was elected to the Pro Bowl.
In a way, Berry has been going through a second rookie season in 2012, while also learning to trust his reconstructed ACL. Through the first five weeks of the season, Berry struggled mightily. PFF graded him a -9.2 over that span. He had particularly bad games against the Bills in Week 2, the Chargers in Week 4 and the Ravens in Week 5.
But then Berry’s grades started to even out. Over the next eight games he graded a +2.5. He had a couple of slightly above average games but his really bad games vanished.
Through the first seven games of the season, Berry had 23 tackles, 7 missed tackles and 11 stops. A stop is considered a failure for the offense caused by the defensive player.
In the last seven games, Berry has recorded 44 tackles, 3 missed tackles and 28 stops.
The Chiefs have been so bad that it isn’t likely many people have noticed Berry slowly regaining his play-making form.
Berry hit a new milestone this past Sunday with his best game of the season. In fact, according to PFF’s grade history of Berry, it was the best game of his career.
E.B. was all over the field, racking up 11 tackles, 7 stops and an overall grade of +5.7.
Berry has also improve in coverage. In the first seven games, Berry was abused by opposing QBs. He allowed 19 receptions for 276 yards and two TDs. In the last seven games, he’s allowed 17 receptions for 179 yards and two TDs.
What’s more, Berry was targeted only 24 times through those first seven games whereas over this last stretch he’s been targeted 30 times. So he’s been thrown at six more times and he’s allowed 97 fewer yards. Berry has defended six passes on the season, five of which have come in the last seven games.
While it has been clear since his rookie year that coverage has been a hole in Berry’s game, it appears as though he is working his way toward fixing it.
In a season full of misery for Chiefs fans, Berry slowly returning to form is a sliver lining. If he continues to improve, Berry could be a major piece in a 2013 turnaround for the Chiefs.