Cliff Notes: Chiefs vs Rams

Rain delays prior to Thursday's contest against the St. Louis Rams didn't affect the intensity of the game, much to the satisfaction of Chiefs Head Coach Herm Edwards.

"You wonder as a coach what's going to happen when you have a delay like that," he said. "These guys were very loose for that hour. They had music going. I think it loosened us up, I really do, because these guys are trying so hard to do the right thing."

It became obvious Branden Albert was excited to put on his pads for the first time in a month when he started dancing around in pregame warm-ups. That dancing, however, would be the only exercise Albert got Thursday, because he did not play.

Defensive tackle Ron Edwards was also amped up for the game, and showed off his vertical by jumping up and down while waiting for the opening kickoff. Linebacker Donnie Edwards, who sat out KC's first three preseason games, exhibited his excitement by slapping his facemask.

Those players had nothing to be worried about Thursday night, as they're locks to make the final 53-man roster. It was the rookie free agents and other backups buried three-deep on the depth chart with something to prove, and the intensity they brought to the field against St. Louis made for the most game-like conditions thus far in the preseason. Even the fans at Arrowhead got into it when the Chiefs scored three touchdowns on their first four possessions.

Some of the players still making their bids to become Chiefs Thursday did well, such as defensive tackle T.J. Jackson, who pressured Rams quarterbacks on numerous occasions, and made one particularly impressive play when he drove his blocker half way across the field horizontally and made a tackle well outside the hash marks. His penetration into the backfield was unparalleled Thursday night.

Another fringe player who did himself a favor Thursday was the wide receiver with a cult-like following, Bobby Sippio, who caught a nice pass on a fade route in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. That play exemplified the skills that have Sippio's followers clamoring for him to make the team - size and good hands.

Wide receiver Jeff Webb was probably going to make the final cut regardless of his performance in the Governor's Cup game, but made some big plays. He made a nice tackle on a kickoff return, drawing praise from the stands, and blocked well in the open field.

Mike Cox solidified his position as the Chiefs starting fullback by making numerous crucial blocks on Rams defenders, and also caught two passes for 31 yards. Chris Manderino, the other fullback who's been battling for a job this preseason, did not impress and was called for a false start in the first half.

Throughout this preseason, many members of the media have been heralding the efforts of rookie free agent Dantrell Savage, and justifiably so. He runs with maximum effort, is quick, and has shown the skills required to be an NFL running back. In his first two preseason games, Savage also contributed to the return game, and that was the niche many thought would insure his spot on the final 53-man roster.

Fellow rookie and return specialist Kevin Robinson was just placed on the physically unable to perform list, putting him out until at least Week 6, and veteran returner B.J. Sams looked less than impressive during most of the preseason. All signs pointed toward Savage making the team.

But then, Savage took a step back in the third preseason game against Miami, literally. He caught a kickoff with one foot inside the field of play and one out, pinning KC's offense on the four-yard line. On that fateful play, Savage committed two cardinal sins: not letting a kickoff go out of bounds which would have set his offense up with great field position, and (obviously) catching the ball out of bounds.

Thursday against the Rams, Savage committed another huge error when he fumbled on the opening kickoff, setting up St. Louis for a field goal and the lead. Savage's returning faux pas the last two weeks have likely reinforced the coaching staff's worries that he's not a dependable returner. Not only did Savage take a step back the last two weeks, Sams took a step forward with an impressive 34-yard punt return against St. Louis.

Will Savage's mistakes be enough to end his run as a Chief? We won't find out until the Chiefs finalize their 53-man roster on Saturday. A large part of the decision may waiver on Sams' health, as he has a hamstring issue according to Edwards.

If Sams' injury is enough of a concern, Savage may win the roster spot by default. Edwards also said he doesn't want to make a decision on a player because of one play, but Savage made three big mistakes on two important plays. He's not safe.

That's because reserve running backs Kolby Smith and Jamaal Charles have been impressive this preseason, and their presence provides plenty of depth in the backfield. If Savage is going to make this team, he's probably going to have to contribute significantly on special teams. It's hard for an NFL team to justify keeping four running backs if one is not the designated return man, especially when the first three are exceptional.

In a ball control offense like Kansas City's, field position and possession of the football are paramount, and Savage's performance over the last two weeks, coupled with Sams' this week, will make the coaching staff's decision a difficult one. By 6 pm Saturday, the Chiefs have to tell 22 players their services are no longer needed. Will Sams or Savage be among them?

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