Kendrick Lewis sucks. Eric Berry is overrated. Sean Smith will be the next Stanford Routt. Dunta Robinson is three years past a prime that was never that great to begin with. Jalil Brown will never take advantage of his impressive physical abilities to turn into a real NFL cornerback. Husain Abdullah is Just Another Guy (think Abe Elam, just with a year of rust added). Sanders Commings will be a bust.
Kendrick Lewis is underrated and will come back strong. Eric Berry is a beast. Sean Smith is the big, physical press corner the Chiefs desperately needed. Dunta Robinson is a massive upgrade as a third cornerback. Jalil Brown is ready to take the next step. Husain Abdullah will be a solid starter. Sanders Commings is going to challenge everyone for playing time by being physical in coverage.
Now that I've managed to reel in those who roam the interwebs reading just the first paragraph before moving on with their apparently-super-busy life, let's make some real predictions. For what it's worth, I have heard every single one of the thoughts above put forth as a prediction. Since we're still about six months from the season beginning, I'm dusting off my predictions column and getting it rolling again.
Next up, the Chiefs secondary in 2013.
Prediction No. 1: Eric Berry is going to be lights out all over the field in 2013, firmly cementing himself as one of the best safeties in the NFL.
This is a topic that I've gone round and round and round and round with people about.
"Eric Berry can't cover."
"Berry is constantly getting beat in every game."
"Berry is a liability against the passing game."
However people phrase it, the same idea is thrown around again and again; that Berry, while excellent against the run, is a major liability against the pass. I have yet to see anyone use all-22 study to back up this assertion, and to be quite frank I've reviewed maybe a couple dozen of Berry's snaps in coverage. But as usually happens, bold assertions (even those not supported by hard evidence) are being accepted and treated as fact. Often times, those saying these things about Berry tend to marginalize his impact on the run game as well. Basically, the theme becomes "Berry is overrated and OK at best."
I respectfully disagree. And by that, I mean you're wrong and probably a communist. Of course, without going back to review the tape, I can't give a breakdown of why you're wrong (maybe that'll come later. We'll see. I've already promised to look at Donald Stephenson and Mike DeVito, and there's that whole "job" thing). But I CAN show that the deep statistics on Berry don't back up the idea that he's not an impact player, nor that he's "terrible" in coverage. In fact, I already did so in a mailbag a little while back.
Here's the takeaway, since I already covered it in-depth: Berry is average-to-slightly-above-average in coverage when compared to safeties throughout the league. Whether it's completion percentage allowed or yards per catch, he comes in a little above average. He (or his zone of coverage) was thrown at more than almost any other safety in the league. Which would in part explain peoples' willingness to accept he's a liability; they remember seeing him more often during those plays. Can he get better? Absolutely, and he should if he wants to be called elite. My prediction is that he WILL be consistently better in coverage this year. In fact, I believe he could well be elite in that area. All you need to do is look at last year and how it broke down.
Berry was not moving like Berry early last year. He was hesitant at times (not nearly as bad as Tony Moeaki, but still). Throw in the fact that he was clearly rusty from the year off and it's easy to see why he struggled out of the gate. And he did. This becomes even more clear if you break Berry's season down into two halves. We'll call them "still recovering" and "recovered."
Still recovering (first eight games): Berry was thrown at 29 times and allowed 23 completions (79.3 percent. YIKES). He allowed 324 yards (14.1 yards per catch), three TDs, one pass defensed, and one INT. He allowed a QB rating of 133.33 when thrown at. Seriously. Ow.
Recovered (second eight games): Thrown at 34 times, allowing 17 receptions (50 percent, for those who struggle with math like I do). He allowed 165 yards (9.7 yards per catch), two TDs (so one fewer despite more times thrown at), SEVEN passes defensed, but zero INTs. QB rating allowed when targeted? 83.6.
The difference between the first half of the season in the second half is so, so, so stark that you have to be blind to ignore it. In the second half of the season, Berry's completion percentage allowed and yards per catch allowed were right up there with the top five guys in the league. His passes defensed per target dwarfed anyone else. It's the story of Jekyll and Hyde. Don't tell me Berry sucks at coverage. Unless you want to ignore half a season and only pay attention to his time recovering and getting back into the groove of things. Then, by all means, please explain to me why he was LIGHTS OUT in coverage the rest of the year. Help me understand.
Berry was excellent in coverage the second half of last year. No way around that. Also, his impact on the run game went up in the second half of the year as well.
Still recovering (first eight games): Berry had 29 solo tackles, eight MISSED tackles (ouch), and 14 "stops" (solo tackle causing an offensive failure).
Recovered (second eight games): 49 solo tackles, four missed tackles, and 30 "stops."
Again, the difference is clear. Berry had more stops in the last eight games of the season than all but six safeties had all year. Read that sentence again. His four missed tackles were close to fewest in the league over that time.
The reason I'm confident Berry will be one of the best safeties in the game in 2013 is that over the second half of last year he was arguably THE best safety in the NFL (which is probably why he made the Pro Bowl. Maybe they should've only let him play the second half?). He was superb in coverage while being the best run-stopper in the NFL at his position (without it even being close).
This year, Eric Berry doesn't have an injury or a year of rust holding him back. It's going to be fun to watch.
Prediction No. 2: Either Sean Smith or Dunta Robinson will disappoint, but not both.
Maybe I'm overly pessimistic, but I can't bring myself to believe that both Dunta and Smith will work out well. I think I've got what I like to call "Joel Thorman Syndrome," in which I've been hypnotized by a certain someone's pessimism about free agent acquisitions (some others may call it "Stanford Routt Syndrome," but I will not bend on this).
Both Smith and Robinson come with question marks. It's just that those question marks are different. With Dunta, it's a matter of age and physical ability when it comes to sticking with receivers. With Smith, it's a matter of discipline and big plays. I have a hard time believing that both will end up how we're hoping. Does that ever happen to Chiefs fans? But I also have a hard time believing both will disappoint (mostly because I don't want to). So which will?
If I had to pick one of the two I'd rather have disappoint, it's Robinson. The reason for that is his ceiling is significantly lower, but in my opinion his floor is higher. If Smith fulfills expectations, the Chiefs have a legit press-coverage monster with incredibly physical skills out there. If Dunta fulfills his expectations, he's a solid CB. I'll take door number one.
That also happens to be my prediction (interesting how the better scenario for us is the one I"m predicting, no?). I swear I've got actual reasons. First, Smith was the more sought-after free agent. When in doubt, trust NFL teams and their desire to get a guy. Second, Smith is younger and something like 189x more athletic than Robinson. Third, Dunta is what he is. His issues (besides his contract) weren't at all mental, they were more physical limitations. Smith, on the other hand, has more problems on the mental side of things. Emmitt Thomas (a corner from a much more physical era) can show Smith how to harness his physical ability into a "smash mouth" corner, if there is such a thing.
Here's hoping Smith pays off big and Dunta is an upgrade over Javy. But I don't see both happening. So...... go team Smith!!!!
Prediction No. 3: The Chiefs will regret trading Javier Arenas.
I have no idea why Javy got traded. Well, OK, that's not entirely true. Given the way it went down, I'm guessing he didn't mind a trade after it was clear the Chiefs weren't planning on giving him a shot. I understand that these things happen sometimes in the NFL. But I can see this biting the Chiefs in the end if Dunta doesn't pan out and Jalil Brown doesn't improve over what we've seen these first couple years.
Javy gets a lot of grief, especially now that he's not a Chief. But I stand by my opinion that he was an OK corner. Not a world-beater, but a guy who wouldn't screw you by being on the field. I don't like trading guys like that. They're good depth. Especially when you're dealing with a position like corner, where you need all the competent bodies you can get (I feel like there's a dirty joke somewhere in there. Or a serial killer joke).
I can see a situation this year when Chiefs fans are bemoaning the lack of a "decent" third CB if Dunta doesn't pan out. I can see it very, very easily.
Plus... a fullback? Really? Anthony Sherman better just wreck it on special teams.
Prediction No. 4: Kendrick Lewis will put up more of a fight for his spot than those on this website are expecting.
I'm not a huge fan of Lewis. He's a bad tackler. And by bad, I mean terrible. That said, I think people are awfully quick to assume he's going to lose out to Abduallah (been out of football for a year, never considered anything special with the Vikings) or Commings (a rookie).
Lewis has MAYBE become a little underrated around here. Before anyone howls to me about tackling, please note I'm not saying he's a great player. But I don't believe he's quite the disaster many make him out to be. I think it comes down to him and Abdullah. And again, Abdullah has been out of the league for an entire year. A year in which he was most definitely not training for at least a big chunk of the time. It's a little unreasonable to expect the guy to come back and take a starting spot in the NFL. Not saying it's impossible. But I just don't see it.
I think come Week 1 we see Lewis out there. Unless we don't, of course.
Prediction No. 5: Brandon Flowers will continue to be a force of nature
Prediction No. 6: Jalil Brown will underwhelm but flash just enough physical ability to get our hopes up for next year. Again.
I think I'm becoming jaded on some of the young guys. I've pretty much given up on Jerrell Powe and Allen Bailey, and now Brown is falling victim to my newfound pessimism.
Of course, given my hit-and-miss (and miss... and miss...) record with some of my predictions, don't be stunned if Brown suddenly transforms into a combination of Darrelle Revis and Spiderman out there (no, not Andre Rison. Although that would be kind of awesome).
Next time we'll start looking at the offense. I fully expect at least one of those columns to read like a love letter to Jamaal Charles.
(Send mailbag questions to MNchiefsfan@hotmail.com, or tweet to @RealMNchiefsfan)