Dec 1, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs strong safetyEric Berry
(29) runs onto the field before the game against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium. Denver won 35-28. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
ERIC BERRY NEEDS TO BECOME ELITE
This is Eric Berry’s secondary now.
Nobody in the Chiefs secondary is more tenured than Berry, who was the Chiefs fifth overall selection in 2010. Berry has to be the guy to take over the secondary if the Chiefs do now want their secondary to turn into an open flood gate. He’s the most developed player of the projected lineup who also has the ceiling to be an elite player, and the Chiefs are going to need him to be elite.
Seattle’s secondary is known for taking the pressure generated by their pass rush and turning it into turnovers, intercepting 28 passes in 16 games. For perspective, Kansas City has intercepted 28 passes in the last two seasons combine. The Chiefs made some advances in creating turnovers last season, highlight by eight interception against the Oakland Raiders over two games. However, Kansas City is losing it’s most constant performer in the secondary in Flowers (17 interceptions in six seasons) and their interception leader from a year ago in Quintin Demps (four). Berry has to become a guy who isn’t relied upon for just stops but also for game-changing plays to make up for what KC is losing.
In a more hyperbolic sense, Berry needs to turn into the guy opponents fear and not just a guy who can be counted on to cleanup plays; a guy who shuts down sections of the field as opposed to being just a versatile player. He doesn’t need to be Earl Thomas, he just needs to be feared in the same way Earl Thomas is feared.
This isn’t to say Berry isn’t a very good player, because he is. Last season he was among the best safeties in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. What is preventing him from being the elite player – as I’ve asserted – is he doesn’t make the kind of kind of plays that changes games often. Whether it be a key turnover, forced fumble, or shutting down whole sections of the field, Berry is a guy you can rely to make the play in front of him but not necessarily the play that changes the game.
For instance, two of Eric Berry’s three interceptions in 2013 came in a 56-31 blow out of Oakland. In games against Denver, he allowed seven catches (10 targets) for 107 yards and a touchdown, while not defending a pass or creating a turnover. Comparatively, Earl Thomas allowed only one catch (three targets!) for 10 yards and picked off a pass in two games against San Francisco.
Should Berry turn into that elite “feared” player then it will take a lot of pressure off of the corners to be perfect, something desperately needed given their youth. It also puts a player at all three levels in the middle of the field – Dontari Poe, Derrick Johnson, and Berry – to protect the most important and vulnerable part of the field. Berry’s (and Poe’s) development into elite players would put the Chiefs middle defense on par with the great ones in Seattle and San Francisco.
The pressure is on Berry to become what he’s been hyped to be since he was drafted. 2014 is the year he needs to match that hype.