NFL Nation: Eric Berry

The Washington Redskins' defense is optimistic about where it's headed, thanks to the addition of Jason Hatcher and a tweaked philosophy regarding the pass rush. Whether their play matches that optimism always remains the biggest hurdle. What's not in doubt: They will have two players among the most expensive at their positions when it comes to the salary cap. The fact both are in their front seven isn't a coincidence as the Redskins' offseason goal has been to improve the pass rush. So, after breaking down where the Redskins' top cap hits at each position offensively stood in comparison to their NFL counterparts earlier this week, it's time to take a look at the defense.

Safety

NFL's top five cap hits
Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs $11,619,700
Eric Weddle, San Diego Chargers, $10,100,000
Antrel Rolle, New York Giants, $9,250,000
Dashon Goldson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, $9,000,000
Michael Griffin, Tennessee Titans, $8,000,000

Meriweather
Redskins' top cap hit
Brandon Meriweather (59th), $1,000,000

Summing it up: Notice who’s not in the top five? Jairus Byrd, after his new deal with New Orleans. But don’t worry: He’s set to take up the most cap room in 2015 at $10.3 million. I like Byrd, but not at that figure (I’d have paid Sean Taylor that sort of cash). But Byrd was never really a legitimate option for the Redskins. Mike Mitchell was and he’ll count $2.2 million this season and $4.95 million in 2015. But the overriding point is Washington views the best way to help this position is by bolstering the pass rush. Starters Meriweather and Ryan Clark both are on one-year contracts, so this position is still a question mark beyond this season (and still will be one entering the year).

Corner

NFL's top five cap hits
Brandon Carr, Dallas, $12,217,000
Johnathan Joseph, Houston, $11,250,000
Lardarius Webb, Baltimore, $10,500,000
Brandon Flowers, Kansas City, $10,500,000
Tramon Williams, Green Bay, $9,500,000

Porter
Redskins' top cap hit
Tracy Porter (43rd), $2,800,000

Summing it up: Next season, Darrelle Revis' cap hit jumps to $25 million. Which means he’s playing on a one-year deal. Is it a good thing the Redskins’ biggest cap hit here belongs to Porter, who has battled injury issues along with consistency during his career? Of course, it’s not like he occupies a lot of space. DeAngelo Hall's cap hit is $2,062,500 but that jumps to $4,812,500 in 2015. By then the Redskins need young corner David Amerson to have fully emerged -- can he become their best corner? If not, then they’ll have to start looking for a No. 1 corner. By the way, the top five on the list for 2014? They’ve combined for four Pro Bowl appearances and one All-Pro spot (Joseph). But Carr did do a good job vs. Washington last year (and in at least one game against then-Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson).

Linebacker

NFL's top five cap hits
Lawrence Timmons, $11,816,250
Tamba Hali, Kansas City, $11,464,706
Brian Orakpo, Washington, $11,455,000
Clay Matthews, Green Bay, $10,943,750
James Laurinaitis, St. Louis, $10,400,000

Orakpo
Redskins' top cap hit
Orakpo

Summing it up: That’s quite a list for Orakpo to be part of, but to stay on there after this season -- at least in Washington -- he’ll have to be a little more productive. But even if he has another season like last year, Orakpo will still be in the $10-million range. When Hali got paid, he responded with sack totals of 12, nine and 11 in the next three seasons (with nine forced fumbles and one interception). I don’t think anyone says Hali's overpaid (well, at least not many). In Orakpo’s last three full seasons, he has a combined 27.5 sacks, but only four forced fumbles. More game-changing plays and he’ll get the contract he desires. Another interesting part on this is that two of the five are inside linebackers, though Timmons plays in a 3-4 and Laurinaitis in a 4-3.

Defensive tackle

NFL's top five cap hits
Ndamukong Suh, Detroit, $22,412,000
Haloti Ngata, Baltimore, $16,000,000
Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay, $15,627,253
Geno Atkins, Cincinnati, $9,000,000
Barry Cofield, Washington, $7,667,500

Cofield
Redskins' top cap hit
Cofield

Summing it up: Cofield’s base salary jumped from $840,000 last season to $4.55 million (the lower figure was the result of a restructuring last spring in which $3.5 million in base salary was converted to a signing bonus). This is as high as Cofield’s cap number will be and in two years it falls to $6,877,500. I know the coaches felt he would become the NFL’s top nose tackle by this time. That’s not the case, but Cofield does have his strengths and has done a nice job with Washington. For a short stretch last season he was playing as well as anyone on the team defensively, and he always plays hard. He’ll be helped by having Hatcher in the pass rush, perhaps giving Cofield more one-on-one matchups. If that happens, then perhaps Cofield will have the sort of season in all phases that coaches have hoped for.

Defensive end

NFL's top five cap hits
Mario Williams, Buffalo, $18,800,000
Charles Johnson, Carolina, $16,420,000
Chris Long, St. Louis, $14,900,000
Greg Hardy, Carolina, $13,116,000
Calais Campbell , Arizona, $11,250,000

Bowen
Redskins' top cap hit
Stephen Bowen (15th), $7,020,000

Summing it up: All of the top five on this list play in a 4-3, where ends can excel as playmakers and, therefore, command big bucks. The 3-4 ends, typically, are not -- with some exceptions. Bowen has not been a playmaker, though for a while he was an effective player both against the run and as a rusher. However, he has just one sack since the 2011 season (26 games). And after microfracture surgery and being 30, I wonder about the level at which he’ll be able to play. Multiple Redskins sources said they still expect him to be in the Redskins' plans, but will it be at this cap figure? That's a big hit for someone in his situation. If Bowen returns healthy and plays well, the Redskins will greatly benefit. If not? That's a lot of cap room to occupy. One more note: Johnson and Hardy combine for approximately 23 percent of Carolina's cap.
There's been quite the buzz surrounding visits from two of the top three quarterbacks in this year's draft, as Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater are at Gillette Stadium today.

Manziel
Bridgewater
The first question many have asked: Why would the Patriots bring these players in?

We don't know for sure, but colleague Mike Reiss had solid perspective earlier today.

The second question some have asked: What exactly are these visits?

Here's the skinny: Beginning April 1, each NFL team is permitted to bring 30 prospects in for a visit, not to exceed one full day (players may travel in the night before, but they cannot stay for multiple nights).

The visits are not workouts -- players do not do any on-field work. They are, more accurately, one-day interviews that also involve medical exams.

The next question many asked: What do the visits mean for a team's interest?

There's no clear answer to that.

In 2010 when I was working in the Chiefs' scouting department, our first visit that year was Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike. We didn't have a major need -- or really any need -- for quarterback depth, but he was a player we deemed worthy of receiving more due diligence.

In the end, he wasn't a player we considered drafting. That's the reality of the visits: Some players who visit won't remain on a team's radar come draft day.

Several of our visits homed in on players who projected to be available when we selected fifth overall: Oklahoma State offensive tackle Russell Okung, South Florida defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain and Tennessee safety Eric Berry, the player ultimately picked.

There's no precise blueprint for how these visits work, but they often begin with the medical exam for teams to answer any outstanding questions.

Players then meet with coaches and members of the personnel department, reviewing film or just speaking more extensively than they have previously.

The visits also often include a sit-down meal so the players can enjoy and familiarize themselves with the city (for us, that often meant a trip to one of the many renowned barbecue joints).

A player's stock might not rise or fall dramatically during a visit, but the contact certainly can help a team develop a more comprehensive evaluation.

Everything about Berry's game-tape and background research suggested he would be an ideal choice at No. 5. The way he carried himself -- he elected to wear a suit, approaching the day in a businesslike manner -- and seamlessly connected with several coaches and front-office members reinforced that he should be our target with pick No. 5.

The bottom line on these visits is that they are one piece of the information-gathering puzzle. The Patriots will be more informed on Manziel and Bridgewater after the visits than they were before them.

Q and A: Should KC draft a QB?

February, 22, 2014
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Another week, another excellent batch of Kansas City Chiefs questions for the mailbag. Here we go:
 

Chiefs mail: Maclin in K.C.?

February, 8, 2014
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Lots of good Kansas City Chiefs questions this week. Let's get to them.

Chiefs star in Pro Bowl

January, 27, 2014
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs were represented by 10 players at the Pro Bowl and some figured prominently. A look at how they fared:

-- Linebacker Derrick Johnson was the game's defensive MVP with eight tackles and a forced fumble. He also had a big hit on his Chiefs teammate, running back Jamaal Charles, in the first quarter.

-- Quarterback Alex Smith was just 9-of-22 for 116 yards, but he threw the winning touchdown pass, a 20-yarder to Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray.

-- Charles rushed five times for 43 yards and caught a pass for four yards.

-- Dexter McCluster returned five punts for an 11-yard average, including a 26-yard return.

-- Safety Eric Berry and nose tackle Dontari Poe each had an interception. Berry also had four tackles.

-- Linebacker Tamba Hali and cornerback Brandon Flowers each had a pair of tackles.

-- Linebacker Justin Houston registered no stats. Neither did offensive tackle Branden Albert, but he had a good time nonetheless in his first Pro Bowl game. Albert tweeted afterward, "Hawaii.... I'll see you next year."
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Earlier I posted on the team grade given to the Kansas City Chiefs by Pro Football Focus and how the Chiefs made the second biggest leap from 2012 to 2013 behind only the Carolina Panthers.

Flowers
The Chiefs' big jump was fueled by improved performances from several players. On offense, the grade PFF gave to running back Jamaal Charles went up dramatically from one season to the next. PFF's grade for quarterback Alex Smith in 2013 was vastly improved to that of his 2012 predecessors, Brady Quinn and Matt Cassel.

On defense, the grades for defensive linemen Dontari Poe, Tyson Jackson and Allen Bailey, linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, and safety Eric Berry were all significantly up from 2012.

A few players had their grades drop. Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and offensive tackle Branden Albert were among them, but neither player had a huge drop.

One player did have a huge drop; cornerback Brandon Flowers. He will participate in the Pro Bowl on Sunday in Hawaii, more of an honor for what he did in previous seasons than how he played in 2013.

Flowers had some dismal games in 2013, none worse than the torching he received against Dez Bryant and the Dallas Cowboys early in the season, and then by the San Diego Chargers halfway through. In fairness to Flowers, he missed a couple of games early in the season because of a sore knee, and it might not have been right the rest of the way.

Still, it's a fact that Flowers didn't play very well, and it's to the point it's natural to wonder about his future with the Chiefs. He's a 5-foot-9, 187-pound player on a team that now prefers bigger cornerbacks. It's more than a little telling that the Chiefs used Flowers to cover the slot receiver in their nickel defense as the season went on.

Flowers has a big contract (he counts $10.5 million against the Chiefs' 2014 salary cap) and he might not be the best fit for a team that requires it's cornerbacks to play so much one-on-one coverage.

It might be a mistake for the Chiefs to give up on Flowers, who turns 28 next month. Flowers has played well in seasons past, and though he's a little guy, but doesn't usually play like one. He's not afraid to stick his nose into the running game.

But in a division with big receivers like Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Keenan Allen, Rod Streater and Andre Holmes, it's a fair question: Is Flowers right for the Chiefs?

It will be interesting to see in the coming months what general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid think.

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 10
Preseason Power Ranking: 19

Biggest surprise: The Chiefs plucked rookie cornerback Marcus Cooper, a seventh-round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers, off waivers to start the regular season. Cooper played better than the Chiefs had a right to expect for a long stretch of the season as the third cornerback. He had a rough stretch late in the season before bouncing back at the end. At 6-foot-2 and 192 pounds, Cooper has the size to match up with the league's bigger receivers. Cooper projects as nothing less than the Chiefs' third cornerback next season and could eventually become a starter.

Biggest disappointment: Offensive tackle Eric Fisher was the first overall pick in the draft last year but rarely played like it. The Chiefs used Fisher on the right side, and he initially had trouble making the transition. He also had trouble avoiding nagging injuries, which caused him to miss four games, including the playoff loss to Indianapolis. Fisher should eventually develop into the kind of player the Chiefs envisioned. He showed great athletic skills that will help him reach his potential. Fisher was usually unable to anchor against a strong pass rush and that's where many of his problems occurred. A year in Kansas City's strength program will benefit Fisher greatly.

Biggest need: The Chiefs need a fast wide receiver to energize their passing game. They gambled by giving Dwayne Bowe a lucrative long-term contract last offseason, but Bowe didn't play like a No. 1 wide receiver until the playoff loss to the Colts. Bowe will turn 30 next season, so if nothing else, it's time for the Chiefs to plan for someone else to step into that top receiver's role. The Chiefs have a couple of fast wide receivers in Donnie Avery and A.J. Jenkins. While Avery delivered some big plays, he dropped too many passes and disappeared too many times. Jenkins hasn't been able to establish himself as a consistent threat.

Team MVP: The Chiefs have at least a couple of defensive candidates but the better choice is running back Jamaal Charles. He supplied much of Kansas City's offensive production, particularly early in the season when the offense around him frequently sputtered. Charles led the league in touchdowns and expanded his game to become a much more dangerous pass-catcher. Coach Andy Reid and his offensive staff did a much better job of getting Charles matched up against linebackers in the open field, and he rewarded them with a number of big plays. If the Chiefs had not lost five of their final seven regular-season games, Charles would have been a strong candidate for league MVP.

All-AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs

January, 2, 2014
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NFC Teams: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South


KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs were appropriately honored with nine players on ESPN’s All-AFC West team.

Each of the nine players deserves his spot on the all-division team. No strong argument could be made for any Chiefs player who didn’t make the team.

Running back Jamaal Charles and left tackle Branden Albert were the offensive players selected. Charles had a strong all-around season, emerging as a legitimate threat as a pass-receiver. Charles beat out some strong competition from Denver’s Knowshon Moreno and San Diego’s Ryan Mathews.

Albert had a solid season despite missing three games late in the year with a knee injury.

On defense, nose tackle Dontari Poe, inside linebacker Derrick Johnson, outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston and strong safety Eric Berry were chosen. Poe, Johnson, Houston and Berry may have had their best NFL seasons. Poe was a force against both the run and the pass and was so valuable to the Chiefs that he rarely came out of their lineup.

Johnson and Berry showed outstanding all-around games. Johnson tied his career high in sacks. Berry set a career high in sacks and scored twice on interception returns. Houston was among the NFL leaders in sacks in late November before dislocating his elbow, an injury that forced him out of the lineup for four games.

Hali was among the AFC leaders in sacks.

On special teams, punter Dustin Colquitt and punt returner Dexter McCluster were selected. Colquitt didn’t have the best average in the division but landed a huge percentage of his punts inside the 20, an important statistic for a team that relied on favorable field position.

McCluster scored a touchdown on two punt returns, including an electrifying 89-yarder against the New York Giants.

Kansas City ChiefsDavid Eulitt/Kansas City Star/MCT/Getty ImagesAlex Smith and Jamaal Charles were among the Chiefs starters who sat in advance of the playoffs.

SAN DIEGO -- Linebacker Derrick Johnson won’t wake up on this Monday morning with the normal bumps and bruises, aches and pains. He will feel fresh, like he didn’t even play football on Sunday, which of course he didn’t. Johnson and many of his key Kansas City Chiefs teammates were given the day off.

"It’s going to be great," Johnson said. "I’m going to be moving fast. We’ll be rested and ready to go and we’ll get started on Indy. We know we’ve got a great opportunity to beat a team we didn’t play [well] against a couple of weeks ago. We know if we can play better than we played … this way, it’s going to be an interesting matchup."

Multiply Johnson’s situation by several others, and you understand why coach Andy Reid rested as many of Kansas City’s playmakers as possible and why it was the right thing for the Chiefs to do, even though they finished the regular season on Sunday with a 27-24 overtime loss to the San Diego Chargers.

This game was all about giving them a better chance to win Saturday’s wild-card playoff game against the Colts in Indianapolis. Reid’s move will no doubt do that.

The Chiefs might not beat the Colts. But if they don’t, it won’t be because running back Jamaal Charles didn’t absorb the 20 or more hits he would have against the Chargers, because quarterback Alex Smith didn’t take the two sacks backup Chase Daniel did, because nose tackle Dontari Poe didn't wind up on the bottom of a pile of humanity on each of San Diego’s 72 snaps.

"I look at the positive of it when I do that," said Reid, who had the starters take some snaps in practice during the week. "It gave the guys a week to heal up and rest up and still at the same time get good practice in. If we do meet up again with San Diego then they’ve got that practice time in with a game plan."

It might be tempting to believe Reid’s maneuver cost the Chiefs a victory, but don’t go there. The Chiefs should have won in regulation but failed to finish when Ryan Succop’s 41-yard field goal went wide to the right with four seconds remaining.

Charles, Smith, Johnson, Poe and the rest of Chiefs’ starters lost to San Diego 41-38 last month in Kansas City. So it’s fair to wonder whether the backups didn’t do a better job on Sunday than the starters might have.

At any rate, the Chiefs had nothing to lose. They were destined, win or lose, to be a wild-card playoff entrant and the No. 5 seed. Wild-card teams don’t get a playoff bye, like the Chiefs would have had they won the AFC West. So Reid created a bye for them.

Among the starters who did not play were left tackle Branden Albert and linebacker Justin Houston. They were injured but would have hurried back to play for the first time in weeks if not for Reid’s decision.

Instead, they had another week to get ready for the Colts.

"That’s one way of looking at it," Reid said about giving these players a bye. "There were a couple of guys with a lot of snaps under their belt like Jamaal and [strong safety Eric] Berry. These guys have been playing and they play physical positions. They had a chance to rest up. It gave Albert and Houston another week to heal up. They’re both ready to go but it gave them a chance to have one more week.

"That’s all for the good."

What the Chiefs did is forfeit any chance at building some momentum for the playoffs. In their last game heading into the postseason, on Dec. 22, the starters played their worst game of the season in losing to, yes, the Colts 23-7 at Arrowhead Stadium.

But that goal is and was secondary to the one the Chiefs accomplished Sunday.

"We’re wiping the slate clean now," Smith said. "It’s a brand new season. This game is such a week-to-week thing anyway. [The notion of momentum going into the playoffs] is talked about but not necessarily realistic."

For the Chiefs, the game had an odd, preseason-in-December kind of feel. Smith, not in uniform as one of the inactive players, stood around during pregame warm-ups, searching futilely for a way to be useful.

"So weird," he said. "I was wandering around. I definitely felt out of place."

Likewise, Johnson was inactive and couldn’t have played once the game started.

"I’m on the sideline warming up the whole game," he said. "I didn’t know what to do with myself."

So, some awkward moments for the Chiefs? Sure. But they did what needed to be done and gave themselves a better chance at postseason success because of it.

"It’s not so much for the quarterback, but some of these guys who play the really physical positions and bang a lot during the game," Smith said. "That’s what’s most important. Come tomorrow, those guys won’t have all the dings and things that do go on in a game. They’ll be fresh and be ready."

Pro Bowl selections: Kansas City Chiefs

December, 27, 2013
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs put an impressive eight players into this year's Pro Bowl but one who didn't get selected could be among the year's biggest snubs.

Inside linebacker Derrick Johnson is having perhaps his best NFL season, but isn't among the eight Chiefs going to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. Those eight are running back Jamaal Charles, offensive tackle Branden Albert, nose tackle Dontari Poe, outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, cornerback Brandon Flowers, strong safety Eric Berry and punt returner Dexter McCluster.

Johnson leads the Chiefs in tackles, an unofficial statistic, with 107. He also tied his career high in sacks with 4.5.

Statistics don't tell Johnson's complete story. He is a down-to-down presence for the Chiefs and his game hasn't slipped even as that of the defense around him deteriorated over the season's last half.

Punter Dustin Colquitt also deserved consideration. Colquitt doesn't have one of league's best averages but he's tied for most punts downed inside the 20 (35), an important statistic playing for a team that depends heavily on favorable field position.

Other than Flowers, it's difficult to argue with any of the eight players who did reach the Pro Bowl. Charles is having perhaps his best NFL season, having developed as a legitimate receiving threat. Albert is having a solid season as the blindside pass protector for quarterback Alex Smith.

Poe has been a force against both the run and the pass and is so valuable to the Chiefs that he rarely comes out of the game. Hali and Houston both have 11 sacks. Berry has been strong against the run and returned an interception for a touchdown two times. McCluster returned two punts for touchdowns, including an electrifying 89-yarder in September against the New York Giants.

Flowers' selection is odd. He isn't having one of his best seasons. The Chiefs often leave him alone in man-to-man coverage and he hasn't done a great job of holding up under the pressure.

Click here for the complete Pro Bowl roster.
Alfred Morris, Eric BerryGetty ImagesWashington's Alfred Morris, left, and KC's Eric Berry lead teams trying to end losing streaks.
Fortunes have turned this season for the Washington Redskins and Kansas City Chiefs. The Redskins, who won the NFC East championship last season, are 3-9. After winning just two games last season, the Chiefs are 9-3 and can clinch a playoff spot Sunday if they beat the Redskins and either the Baltimore Ravens or the Miami Dolphins lose. But the Chiefs have lost three straight, and their chances for winning the AFC West are virtually gone after being swept in their two games against the Denver Broncos.

ESPN.com's Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and Redskins reporter John Keim discuss Sunday's game:

Teicher: This is a complicated question, but what’s happened this season with Robert Griffin III? Still bothered by the knee? Feeling the effects of missing offseason practice?

Keim: Yeah, it’s complicated because there are a lot of issues that have added up to him having an inconsistent sophomore season. The knee played a factor early in that he wasn’t going to run a lot and wanted to be more of a dropback passer (partly because he was fooled by last season’s success). The knee brace restricts him a little, but he just hasn’t regained his explosiveness. He’s still fast, but that first-step burst isn’t the same, and that hurts on some of the read-option or escaping trouble. Defenses are playing them different -- teams with good fronts can sit back and take away their play-action. They’ve seen coverages they didn’t see a lot of last season, and a greater variety of stunts and blitzes (knowing Griffin might not hurt them as badly). Missing the offseason really hurt Griffin’s ability to develop as a passer, and that has been a big issue. There are games when he looks solid, like against the Giants, but he also has had a couple of games that are as bad as any since he entered the NFL. Because he came from a much less complex passing system at Baylor, he needs a full offseason of work.

Adam, who would have thought Alex Smith would be the quarterback with the better team in this game? What sort of difference has he made for the Chiefs?

Teicher: His stats haven’t been great until the past couple of games, but he’s actually had a pretty good season. He’s been burned to some extent by dropped passes or his statistics would actually look a lot better. Through the nine-game winning streak to start the season, Smith played well enough not to mess up a good thing. He wasn’t committing turnovers, and, although he wasn’t making many big plays in the passing game, he was bailing the Chiefs out of some tough situations, whether scrambling or on the option or on a called play. Lately, they have needed more points and big plays, and he has delivered.

Kansas City has given up some yards via the running game this season. Give us a little scouting report on how Washington uses Alfred Morris and Roy Helu, and what there is to choose from between those guys. Also, do most of RG III’s rushing yards come on the option, called runs or scrambles?

Keim: The Redskins love to use a lot of stretch-zone and outside zone runs with Morris and Helu. Both can run inside. They will use some boot action off the stretch-zone, as well. Morris does a much better job than Helu of setting up defenders by pressing the hole and cutting. He gets linebackers to overflow, then cuts back. Morris is more patient than Helu, who hits holes as fast as he can run, and that often means he doesn’t set up defenders and therefore doesn’t create lanes for himself. He’s a bigger threat in the open field as a receiver. Helu is used more as a third-down back, but he is capable of running and does have the speed to break a long run. But, again, just not patient enough, and therefore gets a lot of 2-yard runs. As for Griffin, he’s averaging 5.46 yards per carry off zone-read runs (compared with 8.0 last season). His longer runs have come off scrambles -- but that also depends on whether a team plays a lot of man coverage. He’s just not as explosive off the zone-read runs, but teams have adjusted to it -- they are more disciplined against it, and safeties are more aggressive coming up to defend.

Looking at the Chiefs’ defense, how would you assess them at this point after such a dominant start?

Teicher: Not very good. The Chiefs have allowed more than 400 yards in each of their past four games. They are going to give up some yards, given the style they play (pressure on the quarterback, cornerbacks frequently in one-on-one coverage). Kansas City gave up some yards and big plays early in the season. But now, the Chiefs are not getting to the quarterback often, are rarely forcing him into mistakes, and are not getting the turnovers and favorable field position that made them so successful early in the season. That is why I think Washington could move the ball and score some points against Kansas City. The Chiefs played against a series of journeymen, backups or inexperienced players at quarterback over several weeks and feasted against those guys. The past three weeks, though, they have faced Peyton Manning twice and Philip Rivers and haven't fared very well. Given Griffin's dual-threat abilities and Washington's running game, Kansas City has some things to worry about.

The Redskins have given up a ton of points. The run defense looks as if it has been decent, but Washington has been horrible against the pass. Pinpoint the problems areas in that regard for the Redskins.

Keim: The Redskins have not generated enough pressure from their four-man rushes, although there are times when they get what they would consider good rushes but it’s not making enough of an impact. I don’t sense that quarterbacks are uncomfortable in the pocket. Sometimes it is because the coverage behind them is too soft, especially when they play zone. Washington has a lot of holes in its zone coverages, and quarterbacks can quickly find them. Makes it tough to then pressure. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall has been solid and made some big plays; he’s much better now in tight man coverage. But the safeties as a group have struggled, sometimes because of injury, and other times because of performance. The Redskins have to upgrade here. Brandon Meriweather is OK, but he’s one bad hit from a longer suspension. They have had to mix and match a lot at safety to try to make it work. But it’s not just here; the inside linebackers have not had a strong season. Cornerback Josh Wilson plays the run well out of the slot but can be picked on. He’s up and down. Rookie cornerback David Amerson can make big plays but also can surrender them (although some of that has subsided). It is an inconsistent group, and it is why defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is under fire. It is not all his fault, as there are times the calls aren’t his, but that is life in the NFL.

How big a difference has coach Andy Reid made --- and are the Chiefs a legitimate contender?

Teicher: He has made a huge difference. He has given direction to an organization that before had a lot of guys pulling in a lot of different directions. Reid came through the door for the first time with an impressive résumé, and players -- tired of the losing and the way things had been -- were more than willing to listen. He has been able to get a lot of guys to put aside personal goals for the greater good. But I don't see the Chiefs as being legitimate contenders, not this season. Even during their nine-game winning streak, there were some red flags everyone knew were going to be problems down the road. The two games against the Broncos, particularly last week's, showed a wide gap between the Chiefs and one of the league's premier teams.

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Broncos-Chiefs matchup of the day

November, 16, 2013
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas took a short flip from quarterback Peyton Manning 74 yards up the right sideline for Denver’s first touchdown last Sunday in San Diego, it showcased virtually every angle of the dilemma facing opposing defensive coordinators these days when they look at Thomas.

Thomas
Berry
The Chargers lost Thomas in the pass route when rookie linebacker Manti Te'o bit too hard on the play-action just before Manning tossed the ball. And once Thomas had the ball he ran past defenders who initially had the angle on him and overpowered Chargers cornerback Derek Cox on the way to the end zone.

So while the Broncos’ top three wide receivers -- Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker -- figure to get plenty of attention, the Chiefs have already shown when it comes to a tight end they believe has an impact in the passing game, they’re going to ask safety Eric Berry to defend him. For the season, opposing tight ends have just 26 receptions in nine games. Just one, Cleveland’s Jordan Cameron, has accumulated more than 43 yards receiving. Cameron finished with 81 yards on four catches in the Chiefs’ Oct. 27 win over the Browns.

And no tight end has scored a touchdown against the Chiefs this season.

In September the Chiefs held the Cowboys’ Jason Witten to 12 yards on three catches, the same Witten who had 121 yards on seven catches against the Broncos this season.

And for the most part the Chiefs have used Berry to handle the matchup. When the Chiefs go to a dime (six defensive backs) look they do what plenty of other defenses do and use a safety as a weakside linebacker. Berry is that guy for them and as such has often lined up directly across from opposing tight ends in the those longer down-and-distance situations.

Against Witten, the video shows the Chiefs funneling help in coverage to him and letting their cornerbacks fend for themselves in single coverage on the outside receivers. It’s at least part of the reason they held Witten to such low output, but Dez Bryant finished with 141 yards and a touchdown. And when the Chiefs kept Jordan out of the end zone in the win over the Browns, Josh Gordon finished with 132 yards receiving and a touchdown.

It is always a difficult choice for defenses against Manning because he is so quick to find the spot where his receiver is winning the one-on-one. He is also patient and won’t force the ball to any particular receiver, he simply plays what he sees in front of him. The numbers fluctuate at times; Decker had two catches in the season opener and nine the following week.

But the Broncos like to look to Julius Thomas in the scoring zone and his battles with Berry will be well-worth a look.

PHILADELPHIA -- Everybody is talking about Nick Foles and the number 7. Hardly anyone is talking about the Eagles' quarterback and the number 0.

That's how many interceptions Foles threw during his record-tying seven-touchdown game Sunday in Oakland. That continues Foles' season-long perfection when it comes to avoiding picks. Foles has set an Eagles' record with 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions to start a season.

“Turnovers kill you,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. “We've talked as a staff since we got here and with our players, it's our ability to not turn the ball over on the offensive side of the ball. We control that. I think obviously our numbers are down compared to what they were here before”

That's an understatement. The Eagles turned the ball over 37 times last year. They had just 13 takeaways.

“Whenever you're on the plus side of the turnover category, usually you're going to have a successful day,” Kelly said. “I think by and large we've done a decent job of that during the season. The Chiefs game was obviously the one game we were minus-five, and we obviously lose the game by 10.”

Michael Vick was the quarterback in the Eagles' 26-16 loss to the Chiefs. He threw two interceptions, including one that Eric Berry returned 38 yards for a touchdown. But Vick, with just one other interception this season, also has done a good job of protecting the ball.

Foles' knack for avoiding interceptions begins before he gets the ball, Kelly said.

“I think it's pre-snap knowledge, kind of getting an understanding of where (defenders are) going,” Kelly said. “I don't think he's getting surprised by what he's getting. He kind of understands what the presentation is pre-snap. Can he confirm it on his first step post-snap, kind of see where he is.”

Chiefs have many pass-rush options

October, 15, 2013
10/15/13
7:30
AM ET
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If you're a fan of what now seems like ancient history, the Kansas City Chiefs had 10 sacks in all of 2008. If you prefer your history more recent, the Chiefs sacked the opposing quarterback 27 times last season.

Either way, it's a long way to 2013. The Chiefs lead the league in sacks with 31 and they are on a pace to break the NFL record of 72 set by the Chicago Bears in 1984.

[+] EnlargeMichael Vick
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliJustin Houston is tied for the NFL lead with 9.5 sacks and the Chiefs lead the league with 31.
The Chiefs have a lot of ground to cover if they're to catch those Bears. Whether they get there or not, it's already been a dramatic turnaround in pass-rush fortunes.

Maybe the most interesting thing about this pass rush is that all of the key components (linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston and linemen Dontari Poe and Tyson Jackson) were in place before this season. Among the 31 sacks, all but 2.5 have been delivered by players who were with the Chiefs last season.

That speaks to the schemes brought to the Chiefs by new defensive coordinator Bob Sutton.

"I knew about those two (Hali and Houston)," said coach Andy Reid, who joined the Chiefs in January. "I knew they could rush the passer. Now, Dontari added into that? Somebody that can play as stout as he plays in a two-gap scheme inside and then be able to pass rush? That was another dimension I didn't expect. The push that (Tyson) Jackson gets, I didn't necessarily see that."

Houston and Hali are the engines that make the pass rush go. Houston is tied for the league lead with 9.5 and Hali is fourth with 7.5.

But even taking those two players out of the equation, the Chiefs have 14 sacks, more than many of the other NFL teams. Those sacks have been spread among eight different players. Seven different players were involved in Sunday's 10-sack game against the Oakland Raiders.

That says Sutton has a lot to choose from. Among his better options are linebacker Derrick Johnson and strong safety Eric Berry.

"I would tell you (Sutton) has a good menu to draw from," Reid said. "He had (Berry) in there. He's got a knack for that, like we had with (former Eagles safety Brian) Dawkins before. Eric Berry does the same type of thing. He's just got a nice feel for that. When you start adding in the secondary players, Akeem (Jordan) has a good feel, (Johnson) has a good feel. That's one of the better things that (Brandon) Flowers does."

Sunday Countdown: Kraft, Nelson, more

October, 10, 2013
10/10/13
2:06
PM ET
Sunday NFL Countdown airs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET on ESPN. Below are some of the features you can see in Week 6.

Also, check out our experts’ picks.

Robert Kraft’s owner’s box: Why does it seem like the owner’s box at Gillette Stadium is the “it” place to be on a Sunday afternoon. Celebs who have spent the day watching with the owner -- Steven Tyler, Donald Trump, Ozzy Osbourne and Jon Bon Jovi -- explain.

Walk the line/Jordy Nelson: Week after week we see Nelson make phenomenal sideline catches. So we sent one of the best receivers ever at this, Cris Carter, to demonstrate with the Packers’ receiver.

Caliendo/Gruden 30 for 30: Frank Caliendo’s at it again ... as Jon Gruden in a comical behind-the-scenes look at what Gruden’s like when he is not talking football.

Eric Berry Soundtracks: The Chiefs' defensive leader is mic'd in a Week 4 win against the Giants.

Mort and Adam 10 questions: What’s the league’s take on Jadeveon Clowney? Who’s the next QB who could be headed to the bench? Are any major deadline deals in the works? Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen have the answers.

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