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A Strong Safety May Be More Important For Chiefs In Draft

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Nov 24, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) is sacked by Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry (29) during the second half of the game at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chargers won 41-38. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Much has been made of the safety play for the Kansas City Chiefs last season after the complete collapse in the playoff loss to Indianapolis. While the key to Bob Sutton’s defense is the ability to put pressure on the quarterback, having quick secondary players who can recover in man coverage to limit big plays is a must. We found this to be the problem when Kendrick Lewis and Dunta Robinson were on the field, both of whom are now gone.

Finding a free safety has been a popular soapbox position amongst Chiefs fans because of Lewis’ and Robinson’s play, but what Kansas City may need more than  a free safety is another strong safety.

Eric Berry is without question one of the best safeties in the NFL, and his versatility within Bob Sutton’s scheme could make him one of the most dangerous defensive player in the league if the pass rush can become consistent. Sutton will line Berry up anywhere and will ask him to do anything. Play centerfield? Check. Run in single coverage with a slot receiver? Done. Rush the passer? Expect him to get there.

2013 Eric Berry PFF Grades: Overall +14.5 (tied for 3rd overall, 1st among SS), +12.5 in coverage (2nd among SS), first in sacks, 3rd in quarterback hits, first in quarterback hurries. The dude is a beast.

Look at the tape of Berry’s better performances from this season and you’ll find him lined over slot receivers, as a middle linebacker, as a one deep receiver, and as a traditional cover two strong safety. He is quite literally everywhere on the field for the Chiefs, especially when they line up in a 2-3-6 formation.

The down side of moving Berry around is it exposes the Chiefs’ lack of depth at safety. Berry lined up as a middle linebacker means Lewis and Quintin Demps were the two safeties deep, not an ideal situation. Talk about a missed tackle bonanza, Lewis and Demps were some of the worst tackling secondary players in the league according to Pro Football Focus. Not having a traditional strong safety in the secondary when Berry was off on his special projects made pass coverage a nightmare when the pass rush wasn’t getting there.

Husain Abdullah and Sanders Commings tag-teaming the free safety position should work just fine, but the Chiefs does not a have another true strong safety on the roster. Given Abdullah and Commings’ injury histories, expecting both of them to be healthy enough to be on the field all season is a stretch. It makes more sense for them to split time at free safety.

So who takes over for Berry? This is the key in the Chiefs secondary. Kansas City needs a thumper, true strong safety to occupy hold Berry’s traditional spot so Sutton can continue to use Berry as a weapon.

Good news for the Chiefs is there are several safeties available in the draft who could start from day one.

Kansas City isn’t looking for a day one starter so much as they are looking for a day one contributor. Throw numbers at the situation: Berry plus Abdullah plus Commings plus [insert draft pick here] should be enough to handle the safety issue. Add a more consistent pass rush and the upgrade over Robinson and the defense should be better than it was in the second half of 2013.

So who realistically fits the Chiefs needs at safety? HaHa Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor would be nice but neither will likely fall to the 23rd overall pick. Who of the remaining safeties could the Chiefs reasonably acquire. Let’s find out.

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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft Prospects Kansas City Chiefs Popular

  • berttheclock

    Appreciate every word you have written, Ben, but, I wanted to mention a comment from DraftTek about the needs of the Chiefs. Yes, they mentioned the Chiefs were one of several needing help in the draft at safety. But, although they did not mention the fact Chip Kelley and his receiving coach had a very long discussion with Latimer recently, they did have the Eagles taking the LSU wide out Beckham and the Chiefs taking Cooks. Their comment about the need of the Chiefs for a wide out came down to pointing out last season the 2nd WR for the Chiefs was Hemingway and Pro Football Focus rated him as the 102th best wide out in the league. The comment was that was not just a valley, but, The Grand Canyon of drop offs. They went on to say how speed at the other wide out would open up the game underneath for the TEs, Charles and the slots.

    So, as much as I have changed from taking Cooks to building other areas, I believe DraftTek has a very legitimate point.

    • Merlin_Arrowhead_Addict

      Glad you liked my comment. The more I think about it, I can see the Chiefs drafting two wide receivers in this draft.The fact that WR is a deep position in the draft serves to help the Chiefs double up and get a strong contributor and a development prospect.

      • Ben Nielsen

        I could totally see the Chiefs taking two WR’s, too. Think I mentioned in one of the mock drafts I did. Just a matter of what rounds the Chiefs want to spend on WRs.

    • Ben Nielsen

      I think a healthy Kelce and Fasano will go a long way. I’m also intrigued with A.J. Jenkins in the “Dexter McCluster” role.

  • Stacy D. Smith

    All the more reason to draft Calvin Pryor if he’s there. He’s versatile enough to play at either spot.

  • berttheclock

    BTW, kudos to Ray Farmer for hiring a former Chiefs assistant as his new Director of Player Engagement for the Browns. He is, now, Dr Jamil Northcutt, who received his doctorate in higher education from Ole Miss last year. He was the player development coordinator for the Chiefs from ’05 to ”08.

    • Ben Nielsen

      Ditto.

  • Calchiefsfan

    As much as i would love to draft a Beckham, Cooks or Lee I can’t help but remembering that down the stretch and in the playoff game that it was the Chiefs defense that faltered while the offense became almost unstoppable. Yes the pass rush needs some improving but most teams had figured out that our secondary couldn’t cover for 2 seconds. As long as their O line could hold off Houston/Hali for that long they could get someone open. Once Flowers went down in the Indy game it was all over. Dunta couldn’t cover and Lewis couldn’t support. So if Pryor is gone by 23 then by all means one of the three WRs should be available. But the Chiefs absolutely need to address the secondary if they want to make the playoffs two years in a row.

    I like this Vereen kid with Reynolds and Dixon after that. They all have good instincts, take good angles, (wow! what a concept at free safety) and have high football intelligence. Any one of them would help the Chiefs D immensely, imho. Add in a mid round corner and the Chiefs should have the talent and depth needed to take the next step. I’m counting on Dorsey to work his magic on finding those diamonds in the rough.

  • sidibeke

    Thank you for getting Demps’ PFF number in there. He drove me crazy last year with his blown safety play, bad first step and lack of speed to make up for it and get burned when he should have been there for over the top help. I’ll miss his ST play but can’t wait to see someone else in there.

  • cyberry

    Deone Bucannon can play both but might be done. Ahmad Dixon from Baylor had a strong proday..

  • Stan Colbert

    Great info. Thanks!

  • Chuck Burrell

    I appreciate the info. Seems like Reynolds and Dixon could be good fits in later rounds