Each team has some issues going into this game. The Rams are hoping their offensive line can gel into a more cohesive and productive unit. They were terrible a year ago. The Chiefs are still trying to put their starting unit together. In fact, the starting five may not suit up and play until the home opener against the Bengals.
Guard Brian Waters returns to the field but Will Shields, who is recovering from a high ankle sprain, won't be available this week and most likely won't play in the Saints game next Thursday night.
On defense, the Rams have shown some signs of life. They've been a bit more aggressive in their play than the Chiefs on that side of the ball, if only by design.
The Chiefs need to make a better showing just to gain some confidence, and they'll probably play with more energy in front of the home crowd. But this game is far more important for Kansas City's rookies. Most of them will make this team, and tonight they'll get a real shot at playing significant minutes.
What they do with those minutes will be the most interesting aspect of tonight's Governor's Cup. Here's a look at what to expect tonight and for the rest of the season for these six draft picks.
1. Tamba Hali - First round draft picks are supposed to make an impact but Hali's every step is under the microscope. With this defense desperately in need of another solid pass rusher, Hali enters the game with a world of potential, a quick first step and the talent to be a double-digit sack man every year in the NFL. Against the Rams he'll see his first action and will likely start for the Chiefs on opening day against the Bengals. Tonight I'd like to see him get a sack and show some of the veterans how a young guy gets it done.
2. Bernard Pollard - The young Purdue standout is making a strong push towards becoming a starter. He might have to wait until midseason, but his coverage skills are far better than advertised in college. He loves to hit and once he gains more experience, he could be just what the doctor ordered for the secondary. Tonight he'll get a lot of playing time, and I for one can't wait to hear the ‘Bonecrusher' chants when he levels a receiver coming across the middle of the field.
3. Brodie Croyle - Croyle will see his first action of the exhibition season tonight, and he'll get several reps with the first team offense. Damon Huard is the backup by default, but he won't be the second man off the bench. Croyle will get his chance. The QBOTF will probably feel comfortable in Arrowhead. At Alabama he played in front of a sea of Red. Tonight could offer Chiefs fans a glimpse of the future.
4. Guard Tre Stallings - I have to admit that I thought Stallings would be a project. But when the Chiefs moved him from tackle to guard during OTAs and mini-camp, they found a place where he could excel. Currently he sits behind Chris Bober and Jordan Black on the depth chart, but with solid performances over the next two weeks he could find himself on the right side of the 53-man roster.
5. Jeff Webb - Right now the former San Diego State star has beaten out Craphonso Thorpe for the Chiefs' fourth wide receiver spot. His hands and route running skills were never in question. Early in his collegiate career, Webb displayed innate ball-catching skills. His hands were always in the right place and his body never got ahead of the ball. He caught it before making his first move. Receivers struggle when they do that in reverse. Given some time with the starting offense, Webb could be the sleeper pick of the 2006 draft.
6. Jarrad Page - I'm still amazed that this UCLA product lasted until the seventh round. Some teams felt he'd choose baseball over football, but the Chiefs were fortunate to grab him. He's about as versatile as they come. He can play safety and nickel corner and can move up in a 3-4 alignment and play outside linebacker. Page and Pollard are Kansas City's future at safety. It'll take time, but Page practices as if he's been in the NFL for five years.
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