In the 11th installment of this series, it's time to look at one of the premiere young players in the NFL. Making the Pro Bowl in his first year Eric Berry surpassed most people's expectations of him. That's no small feat considering the amount of hype - especially here - surrounding the rookie.Eric Berry came in as the fifth overall pick in the 2010 draft and lived up to his billing. Like most players, Berry suffered growing pains early in the season. He was torched on Monday Night Football against Antonio Gates and then for a long touchdown pass to Legedu Naanee. The next week he was beaten on a play-action bomb again, this time to Josh Cribbs. After that however, things started to drastically change.
Normally I like to lay out the good and bad, then come to the question. But in full disclosure, there really isn't much bad to speak of. When you have a player who already looks like one of the best, it's rare and beautiful to watch. Berry brings a rare blend of run-stopping ability and man-to-man/zone skills. He led the team with interceptions (4) and made 92 tackles (77 solo), good for second on the team.
To watch Eric Berry is to watch a constant rage burning within. Controlled but chaotic, he wrecks havoc on the opposition, both at the line and across the middle. He brought his best when it mattered most in the Wild Card loss to Baltimore. He was dominant. The best player on the field even in defeat.
The question is exceedingly simplistic. Is Eric Berry going to be the best NFL safety this season?
My Verdict: He won't surpass Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu yet, but he'll narrow the gap to a vapor trail on a windy day.
When I see Berry, I instantly think of Ronnie Lott. He plays with the same passion and fury as the man with four Super Bowl rings. He's a constant presence on the field and in the locker room. I remember reading about his tirade at halftime of the Cardinals game, when Berry felt the team was playing sub-par football. Even as a rookie Berry wasn't afraid to speak up.
For all the talent he has, his most important quality might be his leadership. For years the Chiefs have lacked a visible fire on the defensive side of the ball. That has clearly become a non-issue. He's a leader of men and the most talented among them. Not often is that combination found.
The play that sticks out more than any other was in the Baltimore game. The Ravens were driving and faced a third down and five on the Kansas City 40-yard-line. Flacco threw the ball to his right for Derrick Mason but Berry dove in, knocking the pass away. What made it great was revealed on the replay. Berry was 15 yards off the line but read the play, came across the field and made the athletic move to deflect it away. It was a perfect snapshot of his film study, intellect and skill coming together.
This Kansas City Chiefs team has many bright young stars. Eric Berry is Sirius.