Rams vs Chiefs: Bubble Battle at QB

Five players got the axe Tuesday from the Rams, including official “bust” Joe Klopfenstein. A sixth player, WR Brooks Foster, was placed on Injured Reserve, meaning that 21 more will be cut after this final preseason game. So we will have position battles all over the field, played out as the Rams and Chiefs players battle for the Governors’ Cup — and their professional livelihoods.

There will also be battles for starting jobs. Jason Smith continues to battle, and this will form the basis of our next conversation with ProFootballFocus, later this week. Bill Coats also suggests Jonathan Wade versus Tye Hill and Gary Gibson vs Adam Carriker as two notable competitions for starting spots.

But in the “do-or-die, make the roster or get a goddamn job” battles, here is a key matchup to watch:

Quarterback: Keith Null vs Brock Berlin

With Boller already having shaken off his significant rust, expect these two to get significant time behind center. For Berlin, at age 28, this may be his last gasp. He’s playing with a slightly torn MCL in his knee (when you hear “sprained”, it means “slightly torn”. It hurts, and it’s unstable.), gutting it out because there’s no getting up at this point if he goes down to injury. Null, meanwhile, had his best appearance in the preseason’s first game, coming in as emergency relief and throwing two crisp passes to finish a touchdown drive. He has also looked good running the drill no-huddle offense. Here’s a comparison of their preseason so far:

Stat Berlin Null
Raw Passing 13-21, 119 yds (5.7 yd/att) 9-15, 96 yds (6.4 yd/att)
TD/INT 1 TD (20 yd to Stanley vs ATL)
1 TD (13 yd to Walker vs NYJ)
1 INT (in end zone vs ATL)
Drives/outcomes 7 Drives
4 first downs (passing)
5 punts
2 scores
6 drives
6 first downs (passing)
2 punts
2 scores
2 turnovers (1 was a missed FG)
Favorite targets WRs: (9)
Carter: 3
Stanley: 3
Walker: 2
Curry: 1

TEs: (7)
Bajema: 3
Fells: 2
E Butler: 1
Klopf: 1

RBs: (6)
Pittman: 3
Gado: 1
Ogbonnaya: 1
J Johnson: 1

WRs: (8)
Walker: 3
N Jones: 3
Carter: 1
Stanley: 1

TEs: (6)
Bajema: 3
Klopf: 2
E Butler: 1* (might have been for Walker)
RBs: (1)
Ogbonnaya: 1

As you can see from the favorite targets chart (source: NFL.com gamebooks), Null has been much more active in stretching the field, targeting his wideouts, while Berlin has been much more comfortable hitting his checkdowns. In fact, many of Berlin’s completions to WRs have been screens and short passes. Another factor involved, though, is that Null has been operating a large portion of his snaps out of the shotgun set, while Berlin has been mostly under center.

I believe that even though Berlin has taken more snaps, Null’s performance should have him a step above — however, not so significant a step yet that the Rams should consider this competition over. In an otherwise meaningless game, this battle should prove to be very meaningful.