With the Kansas City Chiefs reporting to mandatory mini camp this week, I wanted to take a moment to try and make an argument for what position All-Pro safety, Eric Berry, should play. Reading this initially you must be thinking “why fix what isn’t broken?”, meaning why change the position that Berry at which has become a two-time Pro Bowler.
The Chiefs selected Eric Berry at 5th overall in 2010, which tied him with the late Sean Taylor as the highest drafted safety in league history. The Chiefs also gave Berry a very healthy 6 year, 60 million dollar contract which made him the highest paid safety in the league. For the most part, Chiefs fans have been pretty happy with the production of Eric Berry while others still argue that he’s over rated. Almost every Chiefs’ fan agrees that Eric Berry’s potential is through the roof, but why are they still split on whether or not he’s over rated? My argument would be that he’s not playing the right position.
Berry’s rookie season started kind of slow but finished very strong. Berry finished the season second on the team with tackles (92), first in interceptions (4), including a 54-yard touchdown return in a late December match-up against Tennessee. Berry also went on to make his first Pro Bowl, which made him the first rookie player for Kansas City to do so since Hall of Fame linebacker, Derrick Thomas.
The future was bright for Berry and the Chiefs in 2011 but in the first game of the regular season, Bills wide-out Stevie Johnson threw a controversial low block on Berry, causing him to tear his ACL, and miss the entire season. Berry came back last season and had what most would consider a mediocre season. Berry finished second on the team in tackles with 86, no sacks, and only one interception. Still, fans voted him to his second Pro Bowl in only his third season and the future still looks very bright.
After a 2-14 season, the Chiefs found it necessary to do almost an entire roster overhaul. Chiefs new head coach Andy Reid, and new GM John Dorsey, realize that in order to win the division, they must be able to stop Broncos quarterback and future Hall of Famer, Peyton Manning. They started by adding free agent corner backs Dunta Robinson and Sean Smith. The Chiefs also drafted corner/safety prospect Sanders Commings and a lot of speculation was that Robinson and Commings would come into camp competing for, and taking reps at, one of the safety positions. Personally, I think that either Robinson or Commings playing safety is an excellent idea.
Robinson is known to be a hard hitting player and a solid tackler as a corner, but as he’s aged, his numbers and skills have started to decline. Robinson at strong safety could be a solid move for the Chiefs, much like what Charles Woodson did in Green Bay the last few seasons. Robinson’s tackling ability is enough to help stop the run and play up close to the line of scrimmage while still having enough ability to man-up on tight ends and running backs out of the backfield.
The other factor at safety is rookie 5th round pick, Sanders Commings. The former Georgia Bulldog stands at 6’0 and weighs 216 pounds. Scouting reports from the combine indicate that his footwork and quickness aren’t quite good enough for him play on an island as a corner in the NFL, making a conversion to safety a high possibility. The Chiefs also signed former Minnesota Vikings safety Husain Abdullahas quality depth.
The reason the Chiefs felt it was necessary to add so much depth this off season is because of the health of free safety Kendrick Lewis. Kendrick Lewis has been solid since he’s entered the league for the chiefs, but has had recent trouble staying healthy. With the addition of new depth at the positions, and the questions concerning Kendrick Lewis’ shoulder, I think the Chiefs should make the switch of Berry from strong safety to free safety.
Eric Berry has excellent coverage skills and has a nose for the football, much like future hall of fame safety Ed Reed. I’m not saying Eric Berry is Ed Reed, but that he has the potential to be the same type of player. Berry has struggled in situations where he has had to play one-on-one with other teams’ tight ends. He should be covering center field for the Chiefs. It would be easier to disguise him in coverage and allow him to roam and make more plays with his eyes.
The position change also would almost certainly give a spike to his production, especially in the interception category. Berry has proven to be very dangerous when he gets the ball in his hands, making him one of the best play-makers on the defense for Kansas City. Berry would still be able to be a consistent factor in the run defense for the Chiefs at free safety as well. His ability to read and react is what helps him to excel in that department, making no reason for him to not stay as effective as his previous two seasons.
This is a big year for Eric Berry. He is set to make $14 million this season and is being paid like one of the best at his position. Reports out of OTA’s are that Coach Reid is constantly on Berry during practice. Any time the defense is out of line, or there is an issue with coverage, or even just a bad play, Berry is the first person Coach Reid gets after. The Chiefs are clearly asking more of Berry as a leader, and they should. With Berry making that kind of money, it’s imperative that the Chiefs get the most out of him.
I fully expect Eric Berry to have a break out year and he most likely will stay at strong safety. New defensive coordinator Bob Sutton should know how to keep Berry in a position to succeed. Asking him to cover a tight end who isn’t getting any press at the line of scrimmage, (much like last season) isn’t his game. The Chiefs know what they have in Eric Berry and hopefully they can get the most out of him. He is entering the prime of his career and I just hope that he isn’t playing the wrong position.
What say you Kingdom? Do you agree that a position change could be very effective for Eric Berry and the Chiefs?