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I really enjoyed reading this article and I thought many of you would as well. I especially liked reading what Berry and Thomas thought about themselves. I hope you all enjoy.




Secondary full of stars

Berry could be the Browns' pick at No. 7


By MIKE McLAIN Tribune Chronicle

The times have been changing in the way NFL teams play defense, which is fine for a player like Tennessee safety Eric Berry.


Not long ago the main concern of safeties was to patrol the second level of the secondary or cover a tight end or running back in man coverage. As for the running game, safeties used to let the linemen and linebackers get most of the tackles near the line of scrimmage with the intention of not allowing a running back to break a long run.


Safeties are now often deployed as an extra linebacker against the run. Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers is the best example. He can move down inside the box and aggressively attack running backs.


The increased role of safeties makes Berry (5-foot-11, 211) a valuable player in the draft. He could go as high as fourth overall. It's doubtful he'll slip beyond the Cleveland Browns, who have the seventh overall pick.


"I feel that I'm supposed to be up there with those guys," Berry said of being included among the elite players. "I don't think something like a position should keep you from (being) up there. If you want to get into positions, I played every position in the defensive backfield in coach (Monte) Kiffin's scheme. You could also say I played a little linebacker also."


Berry is an aggressive run-stopper with hard-hitting skills. His speed and footwork allow him to cover receivers like a cornerback.


Berry won the Thorpe Trophy last season, which is symbolic of the nation's top defensive back. He had 87 tackles, seven passes defensed and two interceptions. He finished his career 9 yards short of the NCAA record for interception return yards.


Picking a safety high in the first round is considered risky because of injury concerns (in essence they're undersized linebackers). Berry is worth the risk.


"I think I can be (a game-changer) if you look at the game film and see the type of plays I've made in the past," Berry said. "I know that's college and we're going to the NFL, (but) I feel like my work ethic can carry me on to the NFL and I'll be able to produce those same plays."


There are some scouts that like safety Earl Thomas of Texas almost as much as Berry. Thomas (5-10, 208) has excellent coverage skills, which might mean a move to cornerback in the NFL. His instincts are outstanding, and he's physically strong against the run.


Thomas registered 77 tackles last season. He broke up 16 passes and intercepted eight, returning two for touchdowns.


Thomas' versatility makes it certain that he won't slip beyond the 15th pick.


"I think of myself as a defensive back playing corner, safety, strong safety or wherever they need


me even in the slot," Thomas said. "So wherever they have me, I'll play. It really doesn't matter. I'm just a ball player ready to play. Especially at the nickel position. I've blitzed a lot."


The top cornerback on the board and a potential top-10 pick is Joe Haden of Florida. Haden (5-10, 193) ran poor 40 times at the NFL combine, but his times were better at Florida's pro day. The bottom line is that he plays faster on game day.


Haden wanted to play quarterback in college, but that changed when he arrived in Gainesville. Last season he had 68 tackles, 10 passes defensed and four interceptions.


"When I first got to Florida I had a little dream that I was going to play quarterback, but they had somebody named (Tim) Tebow there, so that kind of went out the window," Haden said. "Then I changed to receiver and I was second string behind Percy (Harvin). I just couldn't get right. After that coach (Urban) Meyer asked me if I felt like going to the defensive side of the ball. He moved me to corner, something I never did before."


Devin McCourty of Rutgers could be picked near the end of the first round or in the second round. McCourty (5-11, 193) has the speed and coverage skills needed to play well in the NFL. He has a lean frame and needs to improve his tackling skills.


McCourty recorded 80 tackles, 10 passes defensed and one interception last season. He averaged 25.4 yards on 14 kick returns and 10.5 yards on two punt returns. He also blocked seven kicks in college.


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