If it seemed like safety Eric Berry rarely left the field as a rookie for the Kansas City Chiefs, that’s probably because he didn’t. The Star broke down how many snaps each player saw last season and Berry was the only defender to participate in every snap.
Berry was also one of Kansas City’s top special-teams participants. He was a regular on the Chiefs’ kickoff-coverage and kickoff-return teams.
It’s not uncommon for a defensive back like Berry to play a high percentage of his team’s defensive snaps. Cornerback Brandon Carr, for instance, took part in 99 percent, or all but 10, of the Chiefs’ plays on defense in 2010.
The Chiefs could lighten Berry’s load by removing him from special-teams duty, where he played in 195 of their 468 plays. Only eight Chiefs were in for more special-teams plays. The Chiefs drafted cornerback Jalil Brown in the fourth round this year and may give him some or all of Berry’s special-teams work in 2011.
When you’re a team that lacks true depth, it’s hard to avoid simply putting your best athletes on the field for coverage units and that’s the situation the Chiefs were in last season. If the 2011 rookie class is half as good as the 2010 version, players like Berry should be able to focus on what they do best — in his case it’s run the defense — and not worry about special teams.
Beyond looking forward to this season and how to better utilize the players already on the roster, these numbers give us yet another chance to realize just how impressive Berry was as a rookie. Just like you, I saw the safety on special teams but never would have guessed that he was there for nearly half of the snaps.
When you throw a rookie into the middle of a defense, you’re already asking quite a bit. Add in running up and down the field on special teams while fighting through the rookie wall and for a playoff berth and Berry’s performance is that much more impressive.