Stopping the pass hasn't exactly been the strength of the Chiefs' defense, but don't blame the rookies for the team's occasional lapses in the secondary.
Kansas City has taken the risky approach of starting two first-year players at the safety spots this season, a move that could have resulted in disaster if things didn't pan out. But even though they haven't been perfect, the duo has more than held its own in the defensive backfield.
Although he hasn't made a slew of highlight-reel plays, SS Eric Berry has been stellar. The Chiefs surprised some when they made Berry the fifth overall pick in April's draft, but the Tennessee product has continuously improved as the season has worn on, quickly developing into a top-notch run stopper. We're told that Berry has been "unbelievable" when playing close to the line, helping upgrade Kansas City's run "D" by leaps and bounds after its nightmarish 2009. His 57 tackles speak to that point.
We also hear that while Berry has room to improve in the coverage department, he has actually been above average defending the pass. His two interceptions are tied for the team high, and he also has four passed defended. With some work in this area, Berry has all the skills to become a ballhawking center fielder in the very near future.
While he hasn't played at Berry's level, FS Kendrick Lewis has held his own as the Chiefs' deep cover guy. The fifth-rounder out of Ole Miss has proven to be an upgrade over Jarrad Page, who was traded to the Patriots prior to the season. When injury forced him to the sideline for a couple of games in November, his absence was noticeable. We're told that Lewis has shown enough to remain in the starting lineup beyond 2010, allowing the Chiefs to focus on other needs in the draft and free agency.
K.C.'s third rookie contributor in the secondary, second-round pick Javier Arenas, has manned the nickel CB spot. Although he has defended five passes, we hear that the Alabama grad has been merely OK in his role, not showing any signs that he can be more than a No. 3 cornerback. He has performed relatively well as the club's primary returner, however. Without a doubt, the Chiefs are much better in that area than they've been in recent years.