Take Five: 2012 Governor’s Cup

Posted Aug 18, 2012

Five things to watch in the Chiefs second preseason game at St. Louis

St. Louis, Mo. – The Governor’s Cup will be on the line Saturday night for a cross-state showdown between the Chiefs and Rams at the Edward Jones Dome.

Saturday’s game will be the 22nd time that the two franchises have met. St. Louis currently possesses the cup after last year’s 14-10 preseason victory at Arrowhead. The Chiefs won the last regular season meeting between the two teams in 2010 when Matt Cassel returned from an appendectomy to deliver a gutsy performance in Kansas City’s pivotal 27-13 mid-December win.

Another chapter in Governor’s Cup history gets written tonight.

Let’s “Take Five”…

1. Developing That Winning Habit

What wasn’t to like about the Chiefs first-team units in the preseason opener?

Things couldn’t have operated more efficiently against the Cardinals. Two 72-yard touchdown drives, a powerful run game, an efficient passing attack and complimentary defense were all part of Kansas City’s first-string dominance.

 Even head coach Romeo Crennel had difficulty nit-picking the overall performance of his starting lines.

“I like what I saw from the runners,” Crennel said. “I thought they ran the ball well. I thought Matt Cassel managed his portion of the game well. I thought the first defense getting those two stops; that was good. I thought the kicking game, the kickers did a nice job in the kicking game because many of the balls were in the end zone and we made field goals, so those things were positive and we have to keep building on that, so that’s what we’re going to try to get done.”

Now what? Do it all over again?

That’s the goal, but adversity is bound to hit at some point. When it does, how will the starters respond?

It may be a preseason game, but Crennel is counting on his veterans to continue building “that winning habit.”

“I think with a young team if you can begin to develop the habit of winning, that can help you win when the regular season starts,” Crennel said. “I think it was a good first step, and we have to continue to take those steps in the right direction to make us a good football team.”

2. Quinn/Stanzi, Stanzi/Quinn

Of course it’s the most-followed position battle in Chiefs camp. It involves the quarterbacks.

This week its Ricky Stanzi’s turn to run with the twos after Brady Quinn worked behind Matt Cassel against Arizona. These two quarterbacks have rotated second team reps on a weekly basis since the on-field portion of the offseason program began in Mid-May and it’s likely to continue beyond Saturday night’s second preseason game.

But expect Stanzi to get a long look in St. Louis. He’s had limited opportunities to be evaluated with veteran receivers and offensive linemen in a game setting. This is a perfect setting to see the second-year quarterback in extended action.

Aside from statistics, here’s what Crennel is looking to see out of his reserve quarterbacks.

“I need to see the guy be able to take charge of the team that he has on the field with him, to be able to control and operate the offense efficiently, and then be able to make the throws that they need to make and make the correct checks at that line of scrimmage,” Crennel said. “All of those things that the quarterback has to do. The guy who can do that the best and most efficiently, then we’ll make him the second guy.”

So we watch…

3. Race for Reserve Rushers

Cyrus Gray will miss Saturday night’s game with a hamstring injury. Enter running backs Shaun Draughn and Nate Eachus. Both are likely to see increased opportunities against the Rams.

Draughn actually ran with the first-team offense in the preseason opener and it’s clear the coaching staff wants a solid snapshot at what the young runner can do. Consistency is key for any young running back pushing to make the roster. That includes ball security and special teams play.

Eachus is in an interesting position and might pull double-duty at fullback and running back Saturday night.

Injuries at fullback pushed Colgate’s third all-time leading rusher (4,485 career rushing yards) into blocking duties despite not having played the position before. He seemed to perform well all things considered, getting leverage on linebackers and he even sprung Peyton Hillis loose for a first quarter rumble against Arizona.

Shane Bannon is back from an abdominal injury and Patrick DiMarco will fit into the mix as well. Still, Eachus was getting reps at fullback this week in addition to his natural backfield position.

Both Draughn and Eachus have an opportunity to bolster their roster chances against the Rams.

4. Numbers Crunch on the D-Line

Every snap is important for Kansas City’s reserve defensive linemen. Especially with Anthony Toribio’s rise to first-team duties muddying the picture across the defensive front.

Most had Toribio on the outside looking in when training camp began, but Romeo Crennel had other plans. Toribio was rewarded with first-team reps at nose tackle after an impressive offseason program and hasn’t disappointed since running with the ones.

 “Toribio made some plays which we liked,” Crennel said after last week’s game. “The young Poe (Dontari), he is still learning and he gave good effort. He’s trying to learn to do the things the way that we want them done. He’s not there yet.  And then P-O-W-E (Jerrell), he got in there and I think he made a play and he has improved from where he was last year, so the competition is still a competition. We’ll get them work and see who rises to the top.”

Toribio’s rise makes preseason games even more important for veteran reserves like Ropati Pitoitua, Jerrell Powe, Amon Gordon and Brandon Bair. Pitoitua had a solid game last week working as a reserve behind Tyson Jackson and Powe flashed his potential slamming Cardinals quarterback Rich Bartel to the turf for a third quarter sack.

Of course, Toribio still needs to keep performing as well.

The numbers crunch is on when evaluating the Chiefs defensive line.

5. Long Look at Jalil Brown

Jalil Brown was one of the standouts during Kansas City’s offseason program working as an extra defensive back in Romeo Crennel’s sub-package looks. Now, he’s getting his chance to shine on an island.

Brown is expected to make his second straight preseason start with a heel injury continuing to sideline Brandon Flowers. Brown was thrown into the fire right away last week matching up with perennial All-Pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

“He’s making good progress, because he’s gotten a lot of exposure with Flowers being down,” Crennel said. “He’s been out there and he’s been competing and he understands the defense and what he has to do. You gain more confidence in a guy when he’s able to go do that.”

This is the longest look the Chiefs have had on Brown when it comes to seeing him play a true cornerback role. Most of his contribution as a rookie came on special teams and as an extra defensive back in nickel and dime formations.

Another good performance and Brown could be a front-runner for the third cornerback job behind Flowers and Stanford Routt in addition to whatever sub-package role he might play.

“It is a good opportunity to get out there,” Brown said. “Whenever the coaches put me out there – whatever position it might be – I’m trying to help the team. As a cornerback, I’ll do that. If it’s any other position, I’ll go out there and help the team.”

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