NFL Team Report - Kansas City Chiefs - INSIDE SLANT
KANSAS CITY -- It seems the only constant in the National Football League is change and Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry has experienced quite a bit of that in four seasons in the league. There's the departure of the general manager (Scott Pioli) that selected him in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, along with the head coach (Todd Haley) and defensive coordinator (Romeo Crennel) he found when he showed up at Arrowhead Stadium as a rookie.
Now, the three-time Pro Bowler is dealing with another change. The guy who played beside him on the backline of the Chiefs defense is gone. Kendrick Lewis was also a 2010 draft choice and he moved into the free safety slot as a rookie, while Berry became the strong safety starter. With the exception of injuries, they were on the field together for four seasons.
But the Chiefs made no real attempt to re-sign Lewis in the offseason and he landed in Houston. Berry remains in Kansas City, getting used to a new partner at safety in Husain Abdullah and also adjusting to his expanded role in making sure the rest of the defensive players are lined up in the right place. That used to be Lewis' job and he did that quite well.
Now, Berry inherits most of those duties. It also means that defensive coordinator Bob Sutton plans to play him more often at free safety than in his usual role of playing in the box and essentially being a linebacker in the Chiefs' nickel and dime defensive packages.
"It's exciting because that's what I was accustomed to doing (at Tennessee)," Berry said of lining up at the back of the defense. "We are all prepared to be wherever they need us to be. We try to work and know all the moving parts.
"Just in talking to coach (Andy Reid), he wants me to be the guy that knows what's going on, make sure I'm stepping up and holding myself and my teammates accountable."
Abdullah was also a free agent after the 2013 season, but the Chiefs moved quickly to sign him after he played so well last year in sub-defenses and on special teams. He returned an interception for a touchdown against Oakland and started in the playoffs against Indianapolis and had six tackles and two interceptions of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
His intelligence has impressed Berry as they go through the offseason OTA sessions.
"His work ethic and his attention to detail; I can learn something from him," said Berry. "He's very particular in his techniques and I pay close attention to him and take note of as many things as I can.
"We are working every day, not just on the field, but outside of football as well," Berry added. "It's not just him; it's everybody in the secondary. We are trying to build the chemistry. I have to know where he's going to be and he has to know where I'm going to be."
NFL Team Report - Kansas City Chiefs - NOTES, QUOTES
--Alex Smith added the running element to the Chiefs' offense during the 2013 season and that's something the franchise has seldom seen from its quarterback. His 76 carries for 431 yards were not only career highs for Smith, but Chiefs highs for the position. Among quarterbacks last season, Smith was No. 6 in rushing yards. Few of those runs were by design; he was on the move to get away from the pass rush.
"We were, I think, first or second in the league in quarterback scrambles with 53 for the year and of those 53, what I was trying to find out was how many times he was taking extra hits," said quarterback coach Matt Nagy. "And, it wasn't so much a hit, because he's going to get hit a lot, but the extra hit that he doesn't need. He only took one out of the 53 times he scrambled, so he protects himself. He's an athlete and he'll make plays with his feet. He's faster than people think and he has that sixth sense of awareness. He has a really good awareness understanding the pocket, where guys are collapsing the pocket and he escapes and then he can outrun some linebackers."
--Fourth-round draft choice De'Anthony Thomas is not taking part in the Chiefs' OTA sessions because of the archaic NFL rule that does not allow rookies to participate in the offseason until their college has finished finals. At the University of Oregon, the current semester does not end until the middle of June, so Thomas will not be seen until training camp. But he was able to participate in the team's rookie minicamp and left a very good impression.
"I thought he did a great job," said running backs coach Eric Bieniemy. "I'll tell you one thing, he blew our socks off. He was in great shape, he did an outstanding job of catching the ball and he did an outstanding job of running the ball. It was fun watching him work. I've seen him since high school so I know what he can do. It was just exciting having the opportunity to see him up close and in person."
--One area where the Chiefs defense is changing this year is how coordinator Bob Sutton will deploy his safeties. It will no longer be easy to label those players as free or strong safeties.
"We try to play both safeties equally, so both guys have to know both jobs," Sutton said. "You're really looking for guys that have a lot of range. The free safety can do a lot of things and a lot of it goes unnoticed, He can cap off a play that maybe was run or caught for 20 yards, but that guy is there to stop it at 20 yards.
"Anytime you can limit the explosive plays and keep them down, the better off you are. You're asking a lot, you've got to be a center fielder and you've got to have good knowledge of the defense and we want them to understand both safety spots."
--Among the 11 undrafted rookie free agents on the Chiefs roster right now, one has drawn the attention of the offensive coaching staff: Georgia State wide receiver Albert Wilson. The 5-foot-9, 200-pound native of Port St. Lucie, Fla., produced 6,255 all-purpose yards in 42 college games, along with 26 touchdowns. As a receiver, runner and returner, he averaged 17.5 yards every time he touched the ball.
"We were surprised that he wasn't drafted because the kid can run," said Chiefs assistant head coach and wide receivers coach David Culley. "I remember him specifically running well at the (NFL) Combine (timed at 4.43 seconds in the 40-yard dash.) He came from Georgia State and it was a new program there and he did a great job against the competition that he had and he had a bunch of big plays. He's come in here and he's kind of caught our eye."
NFL Team Report - Kansas City Chiefs - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
A closer look at the Chiefs' picks:
Round 1/23 -- Dee Ford, OLB, 6-2, 252, Auburn
--Last season, the Chiefs were sixth in the NFL in sacks (47), but in their six losses in the regular season and playoffs, they had just six. They lost twice to Denver, San Diego and Indianapolis, and when quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Phillip Rivers are one-fourth of the schedule, the more productive pass rushers the merrier. Ford was the second-rated pass rusher on the Chiefs board based on his explosive first step. With starting outside linebacker Tamba Hali sitting with just two more seasons on his contract, his replacement is now in place.
Round 3/87 -- Phillip Gaines, CB, 6-1, 185, Rice
--A team in today's NFL can't have enough pass rushers or talented players in pass coverage. After getting their rusher in the first round, the Chiefs picked up a coverage guy in the third. He may be a reach given that in 52 games and 40 starts Gaines finished his college career with just four interceptions, all in his senior season. But he did set a school record for passes broken up (36) during a career with the Owls.
Round 4/124 -- De'Anthony Thomas, RB, 5-9, 174, Oregon
--The Chiefs were not intent on signing Dexter McCluster after the 2013 season, and the former second-round choice landed with the Tennessee Titans. With Thomas, they replaced him and may have upgraded the talent level on the roster as well. McCluster was quick, but did not necessarily possess straight-line speed; the Chiefs think Thomas has both the quickness and explosive speed. For the Ducks, Thomas averaged 12 yards every time the ball was in his hands as a runner, receiver and returner. He will do all three with the Chiefs.
Round 5/163 -- Aaron Murray, QB, 6-0, 200, Georgia
--Through different general managers, coaches, coordinators and other decision-makers, the Chiefs have not been an active participant in drafting quarterbacks. Including the 1998 selection meeting, Kansas City picked three quarterbacks in 16 drafts. Murray is the most gifted and experienced college quarterback the franchise has drafted since 1983 when they made Todd Blackledge the No. 7 pick in the first round. A torn ACL and surgery put an early end to Murray's career with the Bulldogs, but he moved on as the all-time touchdown passer in the SEC with 121 scores over his four-year, 52-game starting career.
Round 6/193 -- Zach Fulton, G, 6-5, 316, Tennessee
--The offensive line at Arrowhead Stadium has been in a state of flux since the end of the 2013 season and Fulton will get a quick chance to be involved at a position that's wide open: right guard. Last year's starters Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah left in free agency and the tentative depth chart has untested Rishaw Johnson in the starting lineup. Fulton played his whole career at Rocky Top at right guard and if he can make the transition, he'll be in the mix for playing time.
Round 6/200 -- Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, T, 6-5, 321, McGill (Canada)
--LDT was a mystery to the Chiefs before last January's East-West Shrine Game. That's where the guy that goes by the Americanized name of Larry caught the eye of NFL scouts with his athletic ability, especially his quickness, speed and flexibility for someone standing 6-5, 321 pounds. Due to the competition level in the Canadian colleges, just how high LDT can rise in the NFL is in doubt and thus he's considered a project. But given he's in his third year of medical school in Montreal, he won't be held back by being unable to handle the mental side of the game.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
--LB Dee Ford (1/23): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Phillip Gaines (3/87): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--RB De'Anthony Thomas (4/124): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--QB Aaron Murray (5/163): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--G Zach Fulton (6/193): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--G Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (6/200): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--S Husain Abdullah: UFA; terms unknown.
--LS Thomas Gafford: Potential UFA; $730,000/1 yr.
--TE Richard Gordon: Potential RFA; $645,000/1 yr.
--WR Kyle Williams: UFA; terms unknown.
--LB Frank Zombo: Potential UFA; $1.625M/2 yrs, $100,000 SB.
--DT Jermelle Cudjo: FA Rams; terms unknown.
--G/T Jeff Linkenbach: UFA Colts; terms unknown.
--DT Kyle Love: Not tendered as RFA by Jaguars; terms unknown.
--ILB Joe Mays: UFA Texans; $6M/2 yrs.
--RB Joe McKnight: FA; $645,000/1 yr.
--CB Christopher Owens: UFA Dolphins; terms unknown.
--CB Justin Rogers: FA; terms unknown.
--CB Kevin Rutland: FA; $570,000/1 yr.
--CB DeMarcus Van Dyke: FA; $645,000/1 yr.
--DT Vance Walker: UFA Raiders; $10.02M/3 yrs, $3M SB.
--OT J'Marcus Webb: UFA Vikings; terms unknown.
--T Branden Albert: UFA Dolphins; $46M/5 yrs, $8.5M SB/$25M guaranteed.
--G Jon Asamoah: UFA Chiefs; $22.5M/5 yrs, $8M guaranteed.
--S Quintin Demps: UFA Giants; $1M/1 yr, $100,000 SB/$100,000 RB.
--LB Robert James (released).
--DT Tyson Jackson: UFA Falcons: $25M/5 yrs.
--TE Dominique Jones (released).
--LB Akeem Jordan: UFA Redskins; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--S Kendrick Lewis: UFA Texans; $795,000/1 yr, $100,000 guaranteed.
--WR Dexter McCluster: UFA Titans; $12M/3 yrs, $4.5M guaranteed.
--DE Brandon Moore (released).
--DT Jerrell Powe: Not tendered as ERFA/Texans; terms unknown.
--CB Dunta Robinson (released).
--G Geoff Schwartz: UFA Giants; $16.8M/4 yrs, $3.2M SB/$6.2M guaranteed.