[From the FanPosts. Enjoyed this. -Joel]
So this season has been nothing short of amazing. We're seeing some incredible improvements in all aspects of the game.
Perhaps one of the most pleasant surprises this year has been the rapid assimilation of our rookie class into contributors. While that is the ideal, it's hardly typical. Most of our rookies have been at or above expectations, and pretty much all of them have made some big plays for us.
The most controversial of our picks continues to be Eric Berry (a/k/a Urc Berry). This is totally natural given how high he was taken and the otherworldly expectations we placed on him. I thought I'd take a look at his rookie year to this point and see where he is now as opposed to where he was when he first set foot on the field Monday Night against the Chargers.
A common theme with Berry has been that he's awful against the pass (in that he gives up way, way too many TD's and other big plays). I'd like to take a look at that statement. Does it still ring true, or is it a myth based on his struggles to start the season?
Let's go over every game we've played so far this year. Again, a condemnation I've heard of about Berry (even very recently) is that he's bad against the pass, and gives up far too many TD's. Now we all know this is an accurate statement if one only looks at our early games. So instead, let's take a look at how this guy
has done overall this year. I'm including TD's given up and pass plays over 20 yards (Those of which can be reasonably blamed on Berry making a mistake or having poor coverage. I'm not going to include spectacular catches or long gains in which he was clearly assigned away from the ball).
(BTW, this breakdown is based on direct game observation. h/t to NFL Rewind)
Chargers game- The criticism of his pass defense is definitely warranted in this game. He gave up a 3 yard TD pass to Gates (in which he was absolutely torched). He also appeared to be the one responsible for the 59-yard pass to Naanee. So of the two TD passes given up, he was directly responsible for both.
Browns game- He was at fault for the 65-yard TD to Cribbs. He bit on the fake, and left Carr all alone when he should have been helping deep.
49ers game- No surprise, he gave up no big plays in this game. GIven that we were stomping the Niners in every aspect of the game, I kinda figured.
Colts game- This was another game in which he gave up no big plays/TD's.
Texans game- Berry gave up a 5 yard TD pass to Dreessen (to be fair, he held coverage for over 5 seconds before Schaub found him. But still, you've gotta keep your man covered.). After that... nothing. I was very surprised by this, seeing how we gave up so many points in the 4th. However, Washington got picked on a ton that day, as did our LB's.
Jaguars game- Berry was at fault for MSW's 9 yard TD in the 3rd. He did, however, have an interception and two PD's (his first two of the season), as well as a FF.
Bills game- No TD's/big plays given up here. He did have another INT and a PD.
Raiders game- No TDs given up. However, either him or McGraw should've been deep to help Flowers on the long OT completion to Ford. Since I'm trying to be a tough grader, we'll call that one Berry's fault. He also recorded 2 sacks this game.
Broncos game 1- Man it was tough watching that game again. The 40 yard TD pass to Gaffney was a weird play that in the end is on Price. However, Berry could have potentially stopped it if he'd recognized the play sooner (although it wasn't his "side"). Other than that play, Berry wasn't involved in any big plays/TDs. I was very surprised by this. One note after watching this game again- Price should never, ever, ever be in there at S again.
Cardinals game- A 27 yard completion to Breaston could mistakenly be laid at Berry's feet. However, after watching, it's clear that Berry and Lewis are both more than 15 yards back in deep coverage (it was a 3rd and 9) and the ball is delivered to the WR 8 yards off the LOS. Berry WAS, however, responsible for a 24 yard reception by Fitz with less than 2 minutes to go in the game.
Seahawks game- No big plays/TDs given up by Berry in this game. I'll dispel a popular myth here- That 87 yard TD was NOT Berry's fault, nor was it anywhere near his responsibility. That was on Lewis.
Broncos game 2- A 28 yard completion to Decker was partly on Berry. He was a little late in coming to help McGraw, and although he laid a big hit, Decker held on. Gotta get there earlier, Eric. He also had 2 PD's.
Here's some facts about Berry after going back and watching him in every game.
- He just belts people in run support. And he does it effectively, stopping runners in their tracks. I counted at least (I likely missed some, since it wasn't my objective to break down running plays) 6 separate tackles where he single-handedly stopped a RB short of a first down on 3rd and short by making a big hit. Tackles like that make a huge impact on games, since they get us the ball back rather than allow a 1st down.
- The idea that he's giving up tons of big plays in the passing game has become outdated. The vast majority of big plays/TDs he gave up were early on in the season. Let me put it this way; in our last 6 games, he's given up MAYBE one TD. And that depends on how strict your being, since it was technically a pass in Price's "deep zone".
- He's gotten a lot better in single coverage as the season has gone on, and has been asked to do more of it as a result. I saw a lot more of him one-on-one with both WRs and TEs the further along I got in the season.
- This isn't about Berry, but I'll add it in there. Lewis gave up more big plays that I saw (and I watched every single pass play of over 20 yards) than Berry. In less action. Before doing this, I was absolutely certain that Lewis was better than Berry against the pass. Now, I believe that Berry outstripped him in this area long ago, and Lewis kept the rep for being better because of how bad Berry was early in the season.. For the record, neither of them give up that many big plays.
- Bottom line- After taking the time to carefully watch him on every big pass play/pass TD we've given up, I can say with confidence that Berry hasn't been a liability against the pass in well over a month. His improvement (when watching the games consecutively) is nothing short of astonishing. And I'm saying this as a guy who was among the first to point out how poor he was against the pass to start the year.
Now before anyone tells me to stop drinking the Kool-Aid, let me be clear. I'm not saying Eric Berry is a PB safety (yet). I'm not saying he's the greatest thing since toilet paper. What I AM saying is that he's gotten much better against the pass than he was to start the year, and hasn't been given much credit for it. Combine that with his ability against the run, and quite frankly he's much closer to being a PB safety than I thought he'd be at this point in his career.
And if he keeps improving at the rate I saw watching those games, it really won't be that long. He may very well be our most improved rookie so far (well, him and Arenas can fight it out).
Also, I've forgotten to honor my Japanese heritage my last couple of posts. So here you go :)