Governor’s Cup! What to Watch For

Imo’s Pizza versus Gates Barbecue. Schlafly Pale Ale versus Boulevard Wheat. East St Louis vs Kansas City, Kansas. Jazz vs Blues. The Arch versus … a spiny blowfish of a convention center. Once and for all, in Governor’s Cup XX, we will settle tonight the question of Who’s Better!

That is, at least until next year.

I caught up with FanBall’s brand-new Chiefs correspondent, Ryan of Chiefs Chatter, to exchange views on what we’ll be watching — the desperate battles and still-unanswered questions marks in the teams’ final exhibition game. Here’s a snapshot of that conversation, after the break.

RamsHerd: What are the major position battles that will be settled for you?

Chiefs Chatter:

Outside of a handful of spots (LJ at running back, Branden Albert, Brian Waters & Mike Goff on the OL) almost every position is still up for grabs. Even the quarterback position, which was — hopefully — solidified in the offseason with the trade for Matt Cassel has intrigue for the No. 2 & 3 spot. Brodie Croyle will start Thursday night and Todd Haley hasn’t been clear about just how long Croyle will stay in the game, but it seems that it’s his job to lose. And the Chiefs picked up another former Patriots QB — Matt Guitierrez — off waivers from New England and he could push Tyler Thigpen right off the roster.

[Note: I then proceed to piss all over Brodie Croyle, and generally act like a jerk. Something about that guy just sends me up a wall. But it’s still hard to believe that the team’s most productive QB, Tyler Thigpen, would be simply edged off the roster in this way. For more on this, check out “Chiefs Depth would go to Jacksonville with Thigpen“]

Chiefs Chatter continues:

The defense is full of battles. Derrick Johnson was expected to be the man in the middle in the new defense, but he has been replaced in the starting lineup — for now — by Demorrio Williams, a guy that for a while looked like a sure fire cut. Same thing in the secondary, where all of a sudden Jon McGraw is starting at safety in front of Jarrad Page. Coach Haley is throwing everything he can at the wall to see what sticks. And will so many questions still yet to be answered, expect to see the first and second teams play a lot against the Rams.

RamsHerd: What sort of question marks about the upcoming season are you looking for answers, or reassurance on?

Chiefs Chatter:

The biggest question mark for this team continues to be the offensive line. Last year it managed to get both Damon Huard and Brodie Croyle nearly killed. It wasn’t until Tyler Thigpen took over, with his skills to run — for his life — that the offense started to move the ball and we’ve seen more of the same this preseason with Matt Cassel going down against the Seahawks last week. I need to see at least a little consistency from the offensive line, especially the right side where Mike Goff was brought in from San Diego to help lock down. So far Goff has been a disappointment and there is no right tackle. That spells trouble for whoever is taking snaps for the Chiefs.

We also need to see how Todd Haley handles being the offensive coordinator and head coach. It’s one thing to ask an experienced head coach to take on the offensive or defensive unit, but a first time head coach? It’s a tall task and one that no one knows how he will respond to.

[Note: for more on this, check out “Todd Haley Better Be Superman“]

RamsHerd: Big picture, with the Chiefs massive draft-day bonanza last year, and the hiring of Scott Pioli, how far do you think this Chiefs team is from contending?

Chiefs Chatter:

I’d love to come out and be optimistic about the Chiefs chances this season. That they could steal what was a terrible division last year, but I just don’t see it. Not only are they transitioning to new offensive and defensive schemes, but with much of the same talent that went 2-14. Todd Haley should be an immediate upgrade over Herm Edwards, but he can only do so much. Best case scenario, I think Kansas City seriously contends for the division title in 2010 and if there are any speed bumps along the way — a more serious injury to Cassel — then maybe that plan gets pushed back to 2011.

I think the franchise is headed in the right direction and just needs some time for Scott Pioli to bring in the talent to fit Todd Haley and Clancy Pendergast’s systems.

I thank Ryan for his time, and good luck to both teams. We want a good clean battle — and of course, a Rams win to take that trophy home once again.

Five things to watch on the Rams’ side of the field:

  1. Will Bulger play, and can his ouchie pinkie handle taking snaps? Hopefully yes on both counts, even if only for a series. Same question – Donnie Avery.
  2. A lot of fans have already anointed Keith Null as the next Kurt Warner — but so far he has yet to significantly outplay Brock Berlin for the 3rd-string spot. I expect both to get a big portion of snaps, who will emerge? (Related: “Bubble Battle, Null vs Berlin“)
  3. Jason Smith gets the start at right tackle, but only because Richie Incognito tweaked his knee, causing Smith’s primary competition to slide over to left guard for the game. Does Smith show enough to take full ownership of the starting job? (Related: “Rebuilding the Offensive Line. Observations from PFF, Part 3“)
  4. Position battles at cornerback — Jonathan Wade vs Tye Hill for the starter, undrafted Quincy Butler vs 3rd round pick Bradley Fletcher for the dime package spot (and last roster spot), do Cord Parks or David Roach manage to enter the conversation? Position battles at running back — Samkon Gado can seemingly lock down the backup spot, leaving Ken Darby to fight for his life against Antonio Pittman and Chris “Silent G” Ogbonnaya. Positon battles all over the field, naturally. Chris Chamberlain vs all-name CJ Ah You at linebacker. Darell Scott and Gary Gibson at DT. Sean Walker versus the two-headed veteran tag-team of WRs, Tim Carter and Ron Curry. (Related: Jim Thomas’ 53-man predictions)
  5. The Rams racked up 6 sacks last week against the Bengals’ retooled o-line. Can we continue to get this kind of pressure this early in the season? If so, it bodes well for a better start than I’ve predicted. (Related: “Rams 2009 Predictions — September“)