Eric Berry: What his return means for Kansas City Chiefs


The news is still sinking in about Eric Berry and him actually being able to play in 2015 for the Kansas City Chiefs. As we all know, Berry was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma back in December but somehow was declared cancer-free on June 12, and has been working out with tight end Travis Kelce twice-a-day this offseason.

In totality, Berry went through chemo treatments and gained a pound. Yeah, read that sentence again.

While this story is profound and certainly more about the human spirit – and in particular, Berry’s – let’s spin the news toward football for a minute. With Berry coming back and presumably able to play in Week 1 against the Houston Texans, what does this do for a defense that also got some bad news on Tuesday with Dontari Poe possibly out for a few games?

Well, the first order of business is to talk about the secondary. With Berry returning to strong safety, Husain Abdullah will be bumped to the third safety on the depth chart. After giving Ron Parker a five-year, $30 million deal, he will certainly be starting at free safety. Or will he?

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  • With Sean Smith being suspended, the Chiefs suddenly have a bevy of options. Most people have assumed that Marcus Peters and Phillip Gaines will start on the outside for the first three games, but what happens in the slot? Steven Nelson would be the most-likely candidate, but he’s a third-round rookie. Do you really want to start two rookies against Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers?

    Assuming Berry can play immediately, Kansas City could put Berry and Abdullah at the starting safety spots and allow Parker to start on the outside along with Peters, letting Gaines move to his natural position of slot. Gaines has also dealt with injuries in his young career, so if he gets hurt, you have some flexibility with Jamell Fleming on the bench and Parker being able to play that spot.

    While Parker is a much better safety than he is a corner, the man is not atrocious. Just ask the Buffalo Bills. Having the option is nice, even if they don’t use it.

    Additionally, the return of Berry is a huge boost to a run defense which ranked 28th last year. Berry is basically another linebacker in the box, but also gives Kansas City the versatility to play against the run or pass effectively without having to shuttle players in and out. Poe’s loss will be felt, but not nearly as much with Berry on the field.