With quarterbacks like leading preseason MVP candidate Peyton Manning and past MVP candidate Philip Rivers in the division, the Kansas City Chiefs‘ ability to emerge as AFC West champs for the first time since 2010 leans on their ability to limit these aerial attacks. Barring injury, Manning will field one of the league’s top pass offenses with a ridiculous receiver trio of Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker. Rivers is coming off a couple down years but feels like a sleeping giant with the weapons in Southern California.
So it much of the fight comes down to the Chiefs’ secondary and pass rush. Justin Houston and Tamba Hali provide the rush of the edges and it will be critical for the secondary to hold up their end of the bargain. This largely means Eric Berry must step up from merely a good run-defending safety to an elite overall safety, as a No. 5 pick in the 2010 NFL draft warrants.
According to Berry, the arrival of Coach Andy Reid — while an offensive guru at heart — brings accountability to both sides of the ball as lead dog.
“(If) anything’s going bad on the defensive side of the ball, he’s always going to come at me,” Berry said of Reid, via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. “Just to make sure, because he knows I’m supposed to hold that side of the ball to a high standard and just making sure that everybody’s doing what they’re supposed to do. It’s just been a lot put on me. I know I’m up for the challenge. I know I can handle that so I’ve just been trying my best to keep moving forward and getting this team moving in the right direction.”
Berry ranked 43rd among qualifying safeties in 2012 by Pro Football Focus grading, and 68th against the pass.