Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry just may be capable of pulling off a rare double this season.
The way the Chiefs are using Berry — as a pass rusher as well as a pass defender — he just could rank among the team’s leaders in both interceptions and sacks.
“I’m going to be all over the place,” Berry said of his role in defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s aggressive scheme.
Berry, in fact, needs a road map as much as a playbook to figure out where he’s lining up from play to play.
Never miss a local story.
He’s the strong safety in the base defense. He can be a blitzing safety or cover safety in the nickel defense. And he’s a linebacker in the dime defense.
“I really had to get into my playbook because there are certain things I didn’t know how to do in the past,” said Berry, in his fourth season with the Chiefs. “I have to know what to do as a linebacker … sometimes I’m rushing off the edge. Sometimes I have to stay on top of my game before … like with the safety position.
“There are just so many different things that I have to know what to do, and I pretty much just cause confusion on the opposing offense. I guess that’s my job.”
Sutton believes Berry (6-foot, 211 pounds) can handle covering tight ends and backs coming out of the backfield, as well as provide run support and put pressure on the passer.
“Eric has a great skill set,” Sutton said. “He’s one of those guys that can play deep … he has the ability to come down and play low in the box in (nickel) situations. He can cover, he can blitz, he’s a very active run defender for a defensive back … down in the box. He has a feel for it, he can slither in and out of the box, so he gives us a lot of flexibility. The more things he can do, the more difficult it is for the opposing teams to say, ‘This is what he is.’”
It’s certainly more fun for Berry than sitting back in center field, waiting for the action to come to him.
“I don’t look at it as doing one job,” Berry said. “I like my job because it’s multiple. They ask me to do a lot of things. I blitz, I cover, I play the pass. I feel like that’s a lot to put on a player, but I feel like I can handle it so I put a lot on myself. I want to be able to fit that role.”
Berry, the Chiefs’ first-round pick in 2010, has been known to get to the quarterback. He had two sacks in a game at Oakland as a rookie. And he has six career interceptions. Now, quarterbacks will have to play a guessing game with what Berry might be doing.
“Last year, people kind of game planned, and they always knew, I would be here, Eric would be there …,” free safety Kendrick Lewis said. “Coach Bob is doing a great job disguising … they don’t know where we’ll be. They can’t locate Eric Berry. He can do all those things where Coach Sutton sets him up.”
Berry’s confident he can fulfill his added duties because he’s completely healthy. After a Pro Bowl rookie season in 2010, Berry missed the 2011 season after suffering torn knee ligaments in the first series of the season opener. Though Berry returned in 2012, ranked second on the team in tackles and returned to the Pro Bowl, he didn’t have the impact he expects to make this year, both as a player and as a team leader.
“I have a lot of confidence in my knee right now, my athletic ability right now and the knowledge that I acquired last year from dealing with that,” Berry said. “It’s a total difference …
“I’m going to do what I do. A lot of people look to me for different things and I’m just going to be strong for my team. I’m going to try to be a good example and get us pushed in the right direction. I want to be a sparkplug for the team.”
Nickel back Dunta Robinson, a 10-year veteran who signed with the Chiefs in the offseason, has been impressed with what he’s seen in Berry.
“You’re talking about a guy who can play any position,” Robinson said. “He’s as good as advertised. He’s on his way to becoming the best safety in this league. As long as he keeps preparing, and stays humble the way he’s doing, and stays focused the way he’s been … he’s probably the best safety I’ve been around. I’ve been around some good safeties, but he’s probably the best.”