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Offseason Roster Review: Safety

Posted Jan 23, 2012

Reviewing and previewing each position heading into the 2012 offseason


Chiefs Safeties Overview

Under Contract (3)

Eric Berry, Kendrick Lewis, Donald Washington

Free Agents (3)

Jon McGraw (Unrestricted), Reshard Langford (Exclusive Rights), Sabby Piscitelli (Unrestricted)

End Of Season Depth Chart

Free Safety: 1. Kendrick Lewis, 2. Sabby Piscitelli

Strong Safety: 1. Jon McGraw, 2. Reshard Langford, 3. Donald Washington

Injured Reserve: Eric Berry

What Happened: Losing Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry to a season-ending knee injury on the first defensive series of the season changed the way Kansas City played defense in 2011.

Players like Berry can’t be replaced by a single reserve and the Chiefs didn’t attempt to do so, giving every reserve safety a start next to Kendrick Lewis at some point during the season.

Though the Chiefs mash-up of reserves struggled at times, the end result was better than expected after Berry was initially injured – especially considering top reserve Jon McGraw missed six games due to injury as well.

The Chiefs were down to their third option at strong safety for a good portion of the year.

While the Chiefs mixed and matched personnel on the strong side, the team relied heavily on Lewis to play with much more consistency in his second NFL season. Lewis still had his moments of growing pains, but grew on the job as the season wore on.

Lewis finished the year tied with Tamba Hali for third on the team with 83 tackles and was second to only Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers with three interceptions. He also notched his first pick-six in Kansas City’s six interception effort at Oakland.

Big Question

How does the depth behind Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis fill out in 2012?

What’s Next

As long as Eric Berry makes a full recovery from season-ending surgery on his left knee, the future at safety looks bright for the Chiefs. However, depth behind Berry and Kendrick Lewis is a concern heading into the 2012 offseason.

The Chiefs most experienced reserves – Jon McGraw and Sabby Piscitelli – are both headed for unrestricted free agency with futures up in the air.

Donald Washington and Reshard Langford (an exclusive right free agent) are both expected to return, but neither was able to secure a full-time gig next to Lewis when McGraw battled nagging injuries.

Drafting a safety on the second day isn’t out of the question depending on how the position shapes up in free agency.

Regardless of what lies ahead behind Berry and Lewis, the Chiefs could use the influence of an experienced veteran on the back line next season. Whether that player is McGraw, who played an active role in the development of Berry and Lewis the past two seasons, remains to be seen.

All eyes will be on Berry’s rehabilitation as safety may be one of the Chiefs less obvious positions of need.

Story You Missed

The Chiefs initially struggled with the loss of Eric Berry, giving up 39 pass plays of 20 or more yards over the first eight games of the season. Overall, the Kansas City defense gave up 55 pass plays of 20 or more yards, which ranked as the 10th-most in the NFL last season.

However, Kansas City paced the NFL with only 16 pass plays of 20 yards allowed over the final eight games of the season.

Overall, the Chiefs allowed a league-low 20 total plays (16 passes and four rushes) of 20 or more yards over the final eight games of the season. No team was better during that stretch and playoff teams averaged 29.7 plays of 20 yards during the season’s second half.

One Sentence Wraps

Eric Berry: Chiefs made big defensive strides despite losing one of the team’s top talents.

Kendrick Lewis: Injuries forced him to develop ahead of schedule.

Jon McGraw: Don’t discount the impact he’s had on Berry and Lewis the past two seasons.

Reshard Langford: Might be the team’s biggest hitter.

Sabby Piscitelli: Became much more consistent down the stretch and started the season finale at Denver.

Donald Washington: As athletic as they come, but still trying to find consistency.

Interesting Stat

Kendrick Lewis’ six career interceptions currently rank second only to Seattle’s Earl Thomas among safeties drafted in 2010.

In addition, just three safeties selected in 2010 have returned an interception for a touchdown. Two of the three (Lewis and Eric Berry) were drafted by the Chiefs.

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