Eric Berry Is Much More Than A Safety

March 3rd, 2010

A lot of Bucs fans, provided the Bucs don’t land manbeast Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy, are hoping the Bucs draft Tennessee safety Eric Berry.

Sure, some may accuse former Bucs defensive end Steve White of bleeding too much Volunteers orange or singing “Rocky Top” too many times, but on his blog “Passing on the Game,” White explains how Berry is much more than just a safety and would elevate the Bucs’ defense just with his versatility.

First of all it means that you won’t have to substitute as much. Many times offenses will use personnel as well as formations to try to dictate what the defense is going to do. When your safeties aren’t good in coverage then you end up having to take out a linebacker and put in an extra corner when an offense goes to a three wide receiver set most of the time. That makes you a lot more vulnerable to that team running the ball against what essentially becomes only 6 people in the box. When you have a guy like Berry however you can match him up on the slot receiver, keep all three linebackers in the game and still be stout against the run with 7 in the box.

Second of all some teams will put in an extra tight end along with a fullback at times to give the appearance of running the ball down hill at the defense only to go play action pass. The Saints in particular use this set quite a bit and it has been very effective for them. Now a defense that doesn’t have a physical safety may elect to take someone out of the back line and put in an extra defensive lineman to match up against the offense’s heavy personnel. But if you have a guy like Eric Berry, again you can keep basically your regular personnel in the game and be more sound against both the run and the pass.

Third of all when your team is in a division where there are several talented tight ends, you are going to need to have a safety that matches up well with them or you end up having to double them lest they burn you up and down the field. Berry has been a corner early in his career at Tennessee and he still has corner’s feet. You can single him up on most tight ends and he has enough size and quickness to cover them down the field and he is physical enough to tackle them should they actually make the catch. And if you aren’t doubling the tight end then that free another guy up to cover underneath routes which makes your pass defense more fundamentally sound.

White goes into much greater detail on why Berry — in his eyes — is a must for the Bucs.

After devouring that blog entry, make sure to check out White’s weekly offerings for Joe in his “Bull Rush” column.

31 Responses to “Eric Berry Is Much More Than A Safety”

  1. bucfanjeff Says:

    He’s talented, but at #3, my money is on McCoy.

  2. Pete Says:

    To high for # 3

  3. JDouble Says:

    It’s a toss up for me between McCoy or Berry at #3.

    I’d rather trade down 5-9 spots if possible, draft Brian Price and pick up another draft pick. I know Berry is great and I know he would help us, but I think we need a top DT out of this draft. In my opinion Price and a 2nd or even a 3rd, is better McCoy.

    There are too many really good safeties in the later rounds to draft Berry at #3 in my opinion. A top 3 DT and a second or third round safety will have more impact than #1 safety and a second round DT. It all starts in the trenches.

  4. JDouble Says:

    Looking back at history, you’ll see that many of the NFL’s best Safeties were 2nd thru 4th round picks. It’s really not very rare to find a great safety in later rounds. The odds are much better than finding a great DT in the later rounds. I can’t even name 5 great DTs that weren’t drafted in the first two rounds.

  5. Mike J Says:

    JDouble , that’s exactly what Gil Brandt said when I asked him in one of those online chats–DTs are just harder to come by than safeties. My thought recently has been to take Berry & trade up into rd. 1 & grab Price; he is only going to be a target for certain 43 teams I think. But I like your idea too.

  6. bucfanjeff Says:

    Stud DT in round 1 is a must, whomever it is. If we don’t address the trenches, the LB, S, CB play won’t matter. It has to start up front, it can make the rest of the defense better.

  7. Radio Mushmouth Says:

    You mean people still want Berry , and the hype machine hasn’t started for the USC safety , after he ran a fake 4.2 ??

  8. Radio Mushmouth Says:

    If you force either Tanard or Berry to play strong safety , and come up and play run support at the line , they are going to get injured. Both are undersized and suited for free safety.

    That’s the only problem I forsee. I love Berry as a player though.

  9. sgwhiteinfla Says:

    Listen, I KNOW pundits keep saying #3 is to high for a safety but are any of you ever going to question that logic? They say defensive line or QB or wide receiver or offensive tackle should go that high but guess what, some of the all time greats at those positions ALSO didn’t go in the top 5. Warren Sapp didn’t go in the top 10. John Randall wasn’t even drafted. As a matter of fact do any of you realize that only one pro bowl defensive tackle from last year was a top 5 pick? And that was Justin Smith who isn’t exactly a household name and was only added as an alternate. One (Dockett) was a 3rd round pick, one (Jay Ratliff) was a seventh round pick. And guess what this draft is deep with?


    From Brian Price, to Dan Williams, to Demarr Houston, to a guy I am really starting to like Geno Atkins, there will be many good defensive tackle prospects in this draft in the first 3 rounds after the two big guys Suh and McCoy are gone. Safety? You basically have 3 with Berry Earl Thomas and Taylor Mays, but really 2 because I don’t trust Mays in coverage at all.

    Again, I don’t mind folks saying they don’t think Berry isn’t talented enough to warrant a #3 pick even though I disagree, but please stop with repeating the bullshit line that #3 is too high to draft a safety. How about this. How are Mike Williams (offensive tackle) Joey Harrington, Dewayne Robertson, Charles Rogers, Alex Smith, Braylon Edwards, Jamarcus Russell, Chris Long and Glenn Dorsey working out for you. All supposedly play positions that are important enough for a top 5 pick. All have been underwhelming.

    Last point. The last safety to get drafted in the top 5 was Sean Taylor (RIP). Before he tragically lost his life, do you think the Redskins were happy with their investment?

    I do.

    Just because something is conventional wisdom doesn’t mean its right.

  10. JoeBucsSteveCampbell Says:

    Steve-We have a S here who plays like Berry, in Jackson. In our defense, one of the safeties is going to have to be the guy that is in the box and bring hats, and I’m not sure Berry is that guy. That’s not his game.

    I’m not saying S isn’t a need, but we have bigger needs.

  11. sgwhiteinfla Says:

    Ok, the site just ate my comment. But here are some names for you as far as size goes. Troy Polomalu, Yeremiah Bell, Roman Harper, Quinten Mickell, Melvin Bullett. All strong safeties. All about the exact same size as Eric Berry who measured at the combine and 5’11.5 and 211 pds.

    Tanard has already shown he can be physical and so far, knock on wood, he hasn’t had injury problems. I don’t think that will be an issue for either guy.

  12. sgwhiteinfla Says:


    Did you watch Tennessee play at all last year?


    Hell he was in the box more than he played the deep middle. Why do people keep getting confused about that?

  13. sgwhiteinfla Says:

    While we are on the subject let me just say that at times, whether because of the formation, or motion or the design of the defense, every free safety has to play strong safety and every strong safety has to play free safety. Its why at times when Lynch was here he was playing the deep middle while guys like say Damien Robinson was in the box. It happens, probably more than you would imagine and while there are separate titles and oen guy WILL for the most part be on the back line more than the other, you can’t play safety in the NFL anymore if you can’t do both. It is what it is.

  14. JoeBucsSteveCampbell Says:

    Yeah, I watch the Vols last year quite a bit. There were several games I watched where I didn’t even notice him playing. I thought he regressed in the pro sysytem last year.

    If we were drafting at 8 or 9, you could probably talk me into the pick. I’d probably still argue for Okung or another OT, but I don’t like Berry or and S that high.

    Plus at some point you have to pay TJax(2011??) and then you wind up with a ton of money all getting sucked down into a really low value position. It is bad cap allocation.

  15. sgwhiteinfla Says:


    Well I guess some how he fooled the All American people and the Jim Thorpe people into thinking he actually played well last year.


    Again, you aren’t really making a case. We drafted Gaines, rest his soul, at 4 and supposedly defensive line is a “safe” position in the top 5. How much money did he eat up? As for paying Tanard we don’t even know what the salary cap situation will be then or the state of free agency. If everything stayed the same we would have the power to try to keep him with a RFA tender and later a franchise tag if necessary but you are talking maybe 3 years down the road if there isnt’ a work stoppage. In the meantime you have two young, dynamic safeties and that position is set for awhile. Oh and lets not forget Tanard’s 4 game suspension last year. Know what happens if he gets popped again? Im not saying that he will and I hope that he won’t but the reality is he’s facing a one year suspension so I wouldn’t be so confident about him if I were you.

    Please, somebody, anybody tell me that he isn’t good enough to be drafted at 3 and then maybe we can have a conversation. But you can’t tell me you would take him at 8 but not at 3 and expect me to believe you don’t think he’s talented enough.

  16. NFL Lawyer Says:

    NFL Lawyer has a sneaky suspicion that Mr. White would not be nearly as enamored with this FS @ #3 if said player had attended any other school outside of the “865”

  17. Erick Says:

    Steve, I completely agree with you. If one of the DTs are there then we need to take them. However, there is still a great chance that both are gone before the Bucs pick. Why is taking Berry at 8 or 9 okay but 3rd isnt? If he is the best player available and the team has a need at that position then you pick that player. These people saying we need to trade down to the 8th or 9th spot need to understand that it isn’t that easy to do this. It takes two to tango. And why are people saying we should take Okung or another OT? Offensive line is one of the last needs that this team needs to address.

  18. sgwhiteinfla Says:

    @NFL Lawyer

    First, can you not comment in 3rd person? The internet is obnoxious enough as it is lol.

    Second of all that’s not really an argument either. If you want to know about some Tennessee players that suck I’m your guy. Follow my twitter on Saturdays and you would have heard me dog cussini our QB some of our wideouts and a few of our LBs. Right now another guy came out early for us, a corner by the name of Dennis Rogan. I think he is going to be a steal but he ran a slow time at the combine so he probably won’t go until late. But he is a good football player. You won’t however hear me trying to talk him up higher than what he is. Remember this, I said at the end of the year when everybody was swallowing Suh, that I thought McCoy might be better and was DEFINITELY better for us as an undertackle. It wasn’t until lately that you heard other folks echo that sentiment. I call it like I see it, period point blank. Some folks can’t handle or understand that and that’s fine too. But its not like I’m the only guy in America saying we should draft Berry. Hell just about every guy says he has the talent for the #3 pick BUT “it isn’t historically done”. So I ask you, am I they hypocrite or are they?

  19. JoeBucsSteveCampbell Says:

    Erick, good post until you said “offensive lines is the last positions we need to address” If you like sucky OL’s then I guess we are ok there.

    This line played well, the first half of 2008, but hasn’t played well since. We suck at RT, and are average to below average everywhere else.

    If Suh/Berry went 1/2, I would definitely take Okung at 3.

  20. Erick Says:

    Compared to Safety, DT, DE, LB, and WR, the offensive line is one of the last needs. I agree that Trueblood is a hothead who hurts the team with penalties, but if he can somehow control his emotions than the line should be fine. Lets not forgot that this line attempted to learn a whole new scheme last year, which I agree failed miserably, but they be moving away from the zone blocking this year. Also Sears, who was a promising player, missed the whole year. Now I’m not putting much faith that he will return but if he does its only a plus. This is still one of the youngest lines in the league who I think and (hope) will reach their full potential. I do think we should draft a lineman, but later in the draft not with the 3rd pick. There are just so many more needs.

  21. sgwhiteinfla Says:

    On the O line

    Donald Penn is a pro bowl caliber player

    Sears and Zuttah should battle it out at LG

    Jeff Faine is a better than average center although we take advantage of some of his abilities like being able to pull.

    Davin Joseph IS a pro bowl player

    As much as I hate Trueblood he is a decent player when he isnt’ getting penalties. He will have competition from Demarr Dotson this who I think is a really good prospect at both tackle spots.

    Places that should be a higher priority at the moment. WR, DT, LB, Safety, blocking TE,

    Taking an offensive tackle in the first round with all the other more pressing needs we have at the moment would do more for me to lose faith in this regime than anything they hahve done so far.

  22. Mike J Says:

    I also think the O-line can wait a year. It underperformed after the opener but it still has some upside, & other spots just plain need attention more.
    Seems to me the line between strong & weak safety has gotten so blurred the past few years it is almost a distinction without a difference.

  23. JoeBucsSteveCampbell Says:

    Steve-If he was a pro bowl player, the bucs would have locked him down for big cash by now. Teams love to pay LOT’s gobs of cash and lock them down. The stats don’t lie, check out the sacks he has given up on football outsiders. Couple that with the fact that he was 360 lbs at the end of the season and color me skeptical.

    Faine has shown me nothing to believe he is above average. The fact that we were the 31st ranked team running up the middle last season doesn’t say much for our inside three.

    Joseph shows great flashes but is inconsistent.

    Trueblood just sucks. Glad to see you like Dotson, maybe he’s an answer there.

  24. sgwhiteinfla Says:

    Im not sure what planet you’re from but where I live the Bucs aren’t spending money right now. On anybody. And why would they give Penn the big bucks when we might not have a season in 2011 and you can keep him for cheap with the high first round tender? Look around the league, you won’t see any teams giving a guy the high first round tender unless they think they are a pro bowl caliber player.

    I can’t really argue with you because most of the things you say just aren’t factually true and don’t make much sense so with that I say adios.

  25. JoeBucsSteveCampbell Says:

    Ok, surrender noted. Our OL and DL are great.

  26. Radio Mushmouth Says:

    It’s too bad there are no stud corners in this year’s draft. We need another lock-down corner worse than a safety…Ronde is on his last legs.

    Maybe after Joe Haden ran that pathetic 40 time we can luck out and get him in the 2nd round.

  27. Louie Says:

    If Suh and McCoy are off the board, I think the Bucs could be very motivated to pick Berry at #3. Morris & Co desperately need players in this draft to be immediate contributors. Another season like 2009 and the axe will fall for sure. Berry would likely make an immediate impact because he is already familar with the system.

  28. Louie Says:

    …plus Berry is very versitile as he can play corner AND he’s insurance in case TJ get suspended again (this time for 1 year).

  29. Cody Says:

    I’m with you Steve Campbell, Okung I believe can easily duplicate Penn’s production in his rookie year but I’ve also been crucified for saying it on multiple message boards. 8 sacks and 8 penalties generally don’t get you mentioned as a pro bowler. Those are Jeff Backus numbers and everybodies clamoring for the Lions to replace him with Okung, so why then is Okung not good enough to replace the immortal Donald Penn?

    I can understand the love for Berry, he’s an exciting guy to watch with the ball in his hand, but you can not go wrong by taking the best Tackle in most any draft class. A franchise QB needs a franchise Left Tackle and we don’t have one of those IMO.

    Of course if McCoy or Suh are sitting there then all bets are probably off.

  30. JoeBucsSteveCampbell Says:

    Yep, Cody. LOT>S by a large margin.

  31. Radio Mushmouth Says:

    Okung would be a stretch at #3 . He is not as good as some of the super-stud tackles we see come out in other drafts.

    We can win with Penn , we can NOT win with some of the players we have at other positions. (WR , DL , S , CB) Fill those 1st.