Not many players come into the National Football League and start contributing from Day One. Even less do so when they're a fifth-round pick. Kendrick Lewis of the Kansas City Chiefs is one such player, exceeding all expectations to become one of the more recognizable names on the roster.
With another full training camp and ample time to learn from Romeo Crennel and Emmitt Thomas again, Lewis should be absorbing information like a sponge. All of this can only help his maturation continue on this very young team.
The question going forward is really whether Lewis is ready to take the next step from solid to very good on the back end.
Negative: Lewis doesn't have a ton of flaws, but he has one glaring area of weakness; his tackling. The Ole Miss product needs to wrap up with much more consistency considering, well, he's on defense.
Being a bad tackler doesn't necessarily mean Lewis isn't a good defender. Deion Sanders was one of the worst tacklers known to man, but it worked out alright for him. The problem lies in his position. At safety, he's the last line of defense and needs to be reliable coming up in run support or helping a corner bring their man down.
Positive: Lewis has an undeniable nose for the football. In two years, Lewis has racked up three interceptions in each season and scored a touchdown. While his numbers aren't off-the-charts, Lewis makes plays with good instincts and great athleticism. His time in the 40-yard-dash wasn't anything special (in fact it was a slow 4.73) coming out of college, but his playing speed is terrific.
In 2011, Lewis amassed 60 tackles which ranked him in the middle of the pack for his position. Remember though, it has to be taken into account who's in front of him and on the outside. Not many tackles are going to be made by Lewis when he's surrounded by great corners denying the ball and a linebacking crew that includes Derrick Johnson.
My Take: Lewis' stats will be similar, but his impact will be felt to a greater degree.
I don't think we're going to see Lewis making 90 tackles. If he does, it's time to scrap the Chiefs front seven and start over. Entering his third season, Lewis is going to continue getting better with more experience but it doesn't mean his statistics will go through the roof.
I do expect Lewis to be more of a ball-hawk in pass defense. With Berry back alongside him he'll have more freedom to take some chances knowing he won't get totally exposed. It may not show up in interceptions, but it will cause more sacks up front.
Lewis is one of the more polarizing players on Kansas City. Some people feel he's underrated while others think he's on the other side of the spectrum. The reality is Lewis plays well, but he'll never be dominating like Berry. However, he doesn't have to be. If Lewis can shore up his tackling, he really doesn't have a huge hole in his game.
For now, he's part of an elite secondary that will be one of the strong points heading into 2012 for the Chiefs.
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