Eric Berry Injury: Why Kansas City Chiefs Defense Is In Trouble Without Star DB

Cian FaheyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 12, 2011

ATLANTA - AUGUST 13:  Eric Berry #29 of the Kansas City Chiefs against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on August 13, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Things aren't getting much better for the Kansas City Chiefs after their opening-day loss to the Buffalo Bills, as Eric Berry has been ruled out for the season. Berry suffered a torn ACL at the start of the game and will miss the season due to the severe injury.

Entering his second season, the former Tennessee standout was being tipped by many to enter the upper echelon of safeties alongside Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed. His all-around play made him a star as a rookie, as his hard-hitting and incredible coverage skills made him a thorn in offense's sides each week of the regular season.

It is no coincidence that his exit from the Bills game in the first quarter came before the Bills put up 41 points on what was expected to be one of the best defenses in the league this year.

Instead, Ryan Fitzpatrick opened up the season by completing 17-of-25 passes for four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Fitzpatrick instantly targeted the spot that Berry had vacated as Scott Chandler—the Bills' tight end that Berry would have been covering more often than not—came away with five receptions for 63 yards and two touchdowns.

The first of those touchdowns came when Berry was still on the field, as he was beaten by a quick throw, but that was largely because the defense was put in short field position after a Dexter McCluster fumble.

This is what compounds the loss of Berry. The Chiefs offense looked horrific once again yesterday. Even with Matt Cassel's injury problems in consideration, the Chiefs looked terrible during the preseason and don't seem to have clicked well at all with their new additions or overcome the loss of Charlie Weis.

Being able to rely on their stout defense would have been some form of comfort to Todd Haley, but they looked anything but comfortable against a BIlls offense that they should have been able to dominate.

Fred Jackson continued a trend that started in the preseason, as teams had success running the ball on the Chiefs with relative ease. Ryan Fitzpatrick was rarely under pressure from Tamba Hali despite him have a great matchup advantage going against Demetrius Bell.

Hali had only one sack, which was the only one for the whole team as their issues with pressure on defense remain. The only turnover the team forced came on a throw from Brad Smith.

Berry's replacement, John McGraw, racked up the tackles yesterday, but that is about all he will be able to do for the defense in his place. McGraw had no impact in the running game, nor does he excel in pass coverage. While Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers are excellent corners on the outside, there is little they can do if the center of the field is essentially wide open.

The Chiefs are really going to struggle without Berry on the back end, as the defense is lacking impact players as it is. Without him the huge amount of pressure on Tamba Hali, Brandon Flowers and even Kendrick Lewis now increases to a degree that nobody can expect them to sustain.

The team's best hope is if Justin Houston can break out early and show why he was considered a first-round talent in this season's draft.

With Houston and Hali terrorizing the back field, the Chiefs will be able to cover any poor coverage on the back end while allowing the linemen and inside backers to focus on shutting down the run. However, that is a long shot and more wishful thinking than any sort of logical answer.

The loss of Berry may be one loss too many for this team that already has one unexpected one on their record.