AP Interview: Kent Babb Addresses the Chiefs Safety Position and Eric Berry

Welcome to the "State of the Safety." All this week, we'll be tackling different aspects and presenting our findings from the safety position. Is Eric Berry the right person to draft? Are there better value picks later in the draft? Is the Chiefs secondary really that desperate? Would it be enough to simply change the scheme and bring in Romeo Crennel? Our goal this week is to investigate the safety position completely and come out more informed on the other side.

For the first entry in the series, we turn to a familiar face. Kent Babb is the Chiefs reporter for the Kansas City Star and a great go-to for good football commentary. He also seemed a natural person to tap on the shoulder for some specific thoughts and questions when it comes to the subject at hand.

AP: The Chiefs are oft-rumored to pick up Eric Berry with their first pick. Is that more of a testament to Berry's talent level or is the safety position really that needy?

Kent Babb: I think it's both. From what I've seen -- and I follow the SEC very closely, being a South Carolina boy -- Berry is insanely talented. It's tough to call a guy the next Troy Polamalu or Ed Reed, but Berry seems to have all the tools. Now, if you're willing to burn a No. 5 pick on him and spend that kind of money, he'd better be a game-changer.

I think Berry is that good, and the Chiefs absolutely need him. I think safety is the Chiefs' top need right now. The safeties last year were dreadful -- players who, under normal circumstances, would have no business in a starting lineup. The poor play of the safeties was a big reason why the team couldn't rely on its defense last year. So yeah, I think the position is that needy.  

More after the jump:

AP: Do you think fans and draft pundits forget about Jarrad Page? Or even with Page, do you think there's still a major need?

Babb: Maybe. Page is a terrific player, and it's sometimes easy to overlook his value to the team. But there was no bigger reminder last year than how the defense played when Page went down. It wasn't the same, and I think it underscored that Page is a solid piece of the Chiefs' foundation. The question, though, is whether Page and the Chiefs' coaching staff can coexist. There was some friction last year, and for a time Page seemed to want out.

I remember thinking that, when Page was injured, that was the last time we'd see him in a Chiefs uniform. And it still might be. The issues were that bad at the time. Now, things might have eased since then, but I can tell you that for most of last season, the Chiefs saw Page as a similar player as Derrick Johnson: loads of potential but with a questionable work ethic and toughness. I'll be interested to see how that changed, or didn't, when the team begins offseason practices.

AP: What difference do you think Romeo Crennel makes to the current safety unit?

Babb: Crennel will have an effect on the defense as a whole. His scheme is proven, and adding a mind like Crennel's was a terrific choice -- and a huge get -- for Todd Haley. But the best coordinators are only as good as the talent they have available, and right now, Crennel doesn't have great talent at safety or linebacker. I don't know that Bill Belichick himself could do much with the Chiefs' current safeties.

It was just a bad situation last year. Bernard Pollard was let go, Page's season ended early, and suddenly a seemingly strong position group was unbelievably weak. Jon McGraw isn't a starter, and Mike Brown isn't a starter anymore, and in the NFL, having two major players in positions they can't handle is going to turn into chaos.

AP: How important to the 2010 Chiefs do you think Mike Brown will be?

Babb: If the Chiefs are going to be successful, he won't play a huge part. Too often last year, Brown was caught away from the play or in a spot he couldn't catch a ball carrier. It was clear that Brown just doesn't have the ability he had just a couple years ago. And that happens. With that in mind, I'm surprised the Chiefs haven't addressed the safety position more this offseason. Maybe it means they're waiting to draft Berry or Taylor Mays or someone else. But whatever happens between now and the draft, the Chiefs need help at safety as much as any other position.
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