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More Eric Berry, Now Featuring Montario Hardesty

If you are like me, what was most surprising about Seattle cutting Deon Grant was not that he was cut, and it was not that he was cut at an inopportune time, but that he was cut first. I thought Patrick Kerney, Julius Jones, Walter Jones or even one of the underachievers yet to establish themselves like Owen Schmitt, Red Bryant or Kelly Jennings would be dropped first. Julius is a lightning rod, because he is no better than average as a rusher, and an average rusher behind an average offensive line, and complementing a well below average passing attack is likely to look something worse than average. Fan consensus is that Julius Jones sucks balls. I do not think he does, but after two seasons, and nearing 29, I think Seattle is better off taking its chances with another back. Jones is no longer a safe bet on a contender, but a low-upside veteran on a rebuilding team.

Montario Hardesty had his best season as an amateur in a zone blocking scheme.  It seems like Hardesty has been around forever. I have never found him very exciting. His undemanding style, vision and pro-level quickness make him a decent mid-round prospect. He offers upside without selling the farm. Hardesty does not have game-breaker upside, but teamed with Justin Forsett, he could give Seattle a competent running game and a pair of good outlet receivers.

As I work through the tape on Eric Berry, I will offer some thoughts on Hardesty too. I don't want to overextend myself after getting a first serious look at him, but his most impressive play of the first drive was a release into an option route from between the tackles. He did not get stuck or lose time fighting through. He popped free and smoothly broke into his route. Good stuff.

Back to Eric Berry. Hokies get the ball back after a Jonathan Crompton interception.

1. 1st and 10 at TENN 44 Tyrod Taylor pass complete to Jarrett Boykin for 20 yards to the Tenn 24 for a 1ST down.

Virginia is in a three wide receiver set and Berry is playing over the left slot. After the snap, he runs at, as if covering, the left slot receiver, but then releases into an underneath zone in the left flat. Taylor finds Boykin on the right.

2. 1st and 10 at TENN 24 Ryan Williams rush for 3 yards to the Tenn 21.

Berry is in the box, on the defensive left. He does a good job of keeping blockers out of his body, but contains rather than attacks the run. Berry shadows the action right, but does not otherwise factor.

3. 2nd and 7 at TENN 21 Tyrod Taylor pass complete to Ryan Williams for 6 yards to the Tenn 15.

Berry starts on the defensive left, identifies the play on his right, points, swarms but does not factor beyond containment. Rico McCoy is injured.

4. 3rd and 1 at TENN 15 Ryan Williams rush for 10 yards to the Tenn 5 for a 1ST down.

Good play, not rewarded. Berry is playing opposite the offensive right, just outside the right tight end. Tech is in a power formation: twin tight end, I, one wide receiver, right. Berry reads the action and storms into the backfield. He lowers a shoulder and hits pulling right guard Greg Nosal into fullback Kenny Jefferson. That eliminates both lead blockers, creates a pile in the backfield and should allow for an easy contain, even a potential tackle for a loss. Nigel Mitchell-Thornton, pressed into action after the injury to McCoy, badly misreads the run and runs up Berry's backside presumably chasing the fullback. That breaks containment, and Williams bubbles out and away from the broken edge and sprints right for the first.

5. 1st and Goal at TENN 5 Ryan Williams rush for no gain to the Tenn 5.

Berry duplicates his previous effort, again striking and stalling the right guard, but this time Tennessee swarms and Williams is tackled for no gain. Nosal drops Berry.

6. 2nd and Goal at TENN 5 Ryan Williams rush for 4 yards to the Tenn 1.

Berry hovers above the scrum maintaining containment. Low level stuff for a safety that specializes in pass defense, but while Berry's showing is forgettable, one of his teammates is blown back and thrown down: Dan Williams. Williams starts on the defensive left and is walked hard right before being chucked down in front of Berry. Berry, for his part, keeps himself clean and unblocked, but also ultimately uninvolved.

7. 3rd and Goal at TENN 1 Ryan Williams rush for 1 yard for a TOUCHDOWN.

Quick play. Berry contains but does not factor.