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2010 Position Previews: Safety

Posted Jul 26, 2010

Will the Chiefs start a pair of rookies on the back line in 2010?

Back for more: Reshard Langford; Jon McGraw; DaJuan Morgan; Jarrad Page; Ricky Price

Welcome to KC: Eric Berry (draft pick); Kendrick Lewis (draft pick)

Departures: Mike Brown

2009 Starts: Brown (16); McGraw (9); Page (5); Morgan (2)

Career Games Played: McGraw (100); Page (53); Morgan (28); Price (2); Langford (0); Berry (0); Lewis (0)

Preview: The safeties are a position group as high-profile of any on the Chiefs roster heading into training camp. The top storylines in this group revolve around a top draft pick overhauling the look of the secondary and a former starter whose status is in limbo. Oh yeah, and there’s the question that everyone seems to be asking as well; will Kansas City start a pair of rookies on the back line in 2010?

Let’s start with one of the most frequently asked questions headed into training camp.

Yes, it is true that rookies Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis received plenty of looks with the first-team defense, as a pair, this off-season. But what’s often overlooked is that Berry was frequently paired with Jon McGraw and DaJuan Morgan in those practice sessions as well.

Predictions are being made about the Chiefs starters at safety, but any and all talk at this point is purely speculation. Not only have the Chiefs talented rookies not yet played a single NFL snap, but they haven’t gone through a full-padded practice either. To me, there are two things to consider when handicapping the possibility of two rookies starting at safety.

1)      Berry and Lewis will likely get plenty of looks together in camp, but don’t confuse that as a precursor to September 13th.  There are many reasons why Kansas City’s coaches would want to see how their rookies react and perform in certain situations and personnel groupings.

2)      If the Chiefs do start a pair of rookies on the back line, it will be because both Berry and Lewis have convinced the defensive coaching staff that they are mentally able to handle the job of quarterbacking the secondary without a veteran presence. Proving this would be a culmination of their work, which began in OTAs and ultimately runs through the final game of the preseason.

As of this moment, we can count on Lewis hitting the practice field in St. Joe on Day One. Berry, on the other hand, is still negotiating his rookie contract with the Chiefs front office.

Outside of Berry and Lewis are some very interesting veteran safeties. Jon McGraw is about as valuable of a role player that a franchise could ask for. In addition to captaining the special teams units, McGraw has ability to jump into any position in the secondary as situations warrant. He prepares like a pro and rarely makes mental mistakes.

Last year, McGraw started the most games (9) of his eight-year career and he’ll be in the mix to continue that role this season. At the very minimum, McGraw will provide an excellent meeting room and practice field example for Lewis and Berry. A team-first player, McGraw will play the role asked of him from the coaching staff.

Another veteran, DaJuan Morgan, enters what i  a very important training camp for him. He fits into the pack of second and third-year player that Todd Haley has eyed for in-house, off-season progression. As injuries depleted the Chiefs secondary late in 2009, Morgan got a chance to see significant snaps for the first time since he was drafted in the third round of the 2008 draft.

Remember Morgan’s huge game against St. Louis to close out the 2009 preseason? Those are the types of plays that Chiefs fans want to see out of Morgan in training camp and beyond.

A pair of first-year players round out those expected to be in camp on Friday. Reshard Langford has shown plenty of potential since the Chiefs plucked him off Philadelphia’s practice squad on Christmas Day in 2009. He even opened OTAs as the Chiefs first-team safety before Berry eventually look over those reps. Ricky Price showed enough promise to receive a promotion from Kansas City’s practice squad for the final two games of 2009.

The final player of the position group is currently in limbo. Jarrad Page was the only member of the Chiefs roster to skip the entire off-season program. His restricted free agent tender remains unsigned and, as a result, trade rumors seem to circle through the media on a consistent basis.

Page is the most experienced starter that the Chiefs have at safety and he has yielded far more return than your average seventh-round draft pick. But right now, Page’s roster situation is pretty simple to understand. If Page remains unsigned, he can’t participate in training camp. The Chiefs, however, retain his playing rights and control his potential for a future with another organization.

Cornerbacks Maurice Leggett and Donald Washington could also factor into the mix at safety as well (read more about them in 2010 Position Previews: Cornerback).

Quotable: The following player or coach quotes occurred this off-season, relative to the position group.

Todd Haley on the prospects of his two rookie safeties…

“There is something about this young group, they haven’t been wide-eyed. They have a long way to go, don’t get me wrong and none of these guys you can anoint, but they have a confidence about them that I am sure will be shaken and rattled at different times and we will have to see how they respond. That is an important part of that position, the ability to communicate and quarterback the defense and if one of these young guys is going to play, they are going to have to show that ability pretty early and pretty often to have a chance.”

In addition to McGraw and DBs coach Emmitt Thomas, Berry is paying attention to a pair of cornerbacks…

“Those guys (Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr) have been in the league for, I think, three years now and they have seen a lot more than I have. I am coming from the college level and they have been playing in this league for three years. They have a lot of experience that is valuable. The only thing I can do is pick their brains and figure out what I can use and what is going to help me.”

McGraw was impressed with Berry’s strides in regards to the defensive playbook this spring…

“I think he’s done a great job. It’s obvious that he was coached very well at Tennessee just because of his ability to conceptually grasp things. It’s not just a memorization of certain things, I can see his development coming along very quickly and I’ve been impressed with that from some of the other rookies as well.”

Number Crunch: The Chiefs carried four safeties on the Opening Day roster in 2009 – *Brown, McGraw, Morgan and *Page

*indicates opening day starter

Up Next: Defensive Tackles

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