The Kansas City Chiefs take on the St. Louis Rams tonight at the Edward Jones Dome. The fourth — and final — preseason game of the season will see the Rams try to get healthy and the Chiefs try to avoid the injuries they encountered last week while still searching for an indentity.
Before every game we present you with three players (Offense, Defense and Special Teams) from each team to keep your eyes on.
Offense: Mark Bradley
With Devard Darling going down for the season and Amani Toomer being released there is a huge opportunity for someone on the Chiefs receiver corps. For a while during training camp I figured Bradley for a cut, but at 6-0/200 he is almost a clone of Darling size wise. And just like Darling he’s been around the league long enough that he knows how to play the game and just needs a chance to put all the pieces together. He had a 22 yard catch in the first game of the preseason, but has been mostly quiet since then. Tonight is his chance to show Todd Haley he is ready to be a factor.
Defense: Donald Washington
The rookie that we have not seen much of during the preseason will get to play with the big boys tonight. After spending most of camp playing catch up due to NFL regulations preventing him from attending early OTAs, Washington will be in the starting lineup in place of the injured Brandon Flowers against the Rams. With Brandon Carr on the other corner and Maurice Leggett comfortable as the nickel, it would be a huge boost to the defense if Washington can show he belongs on the field with the first team.
Special Teams: Jamaal Charles
After showing progress in the running game last week, Charles can secure the kick return job with a good showing tonight. He had a 35 yard return against the Seahawks, but he also had trouble handling another. Charles has to show he can provide the one thing Haley has preached from day one: consistency.
Offense: Jason Smith
While the Chiefs try to solve the black hole that is the right side of their offensive line, they will get an up close look at the man taken one spot ahead of their selection in April’s draft. Smith had been running with the second team, but due to an injury to Richie Incognito, Smith is slated to start tonight in St. Louis. With a solid showing he could begin what is expected to be a long career of anchoring the Rams offensive line.
Defense: Adam Carriker
Unlike Smith who is fighting for a starting spot, Carriker — another former first round pick — is just hoping to make the roster. He had a solid rookie season, but followed that up with an injury plagued campaign last year. Tonight will be his preseason debut for the Rams and if he proves again to be too frail for the NFL, new coach Steve Spagnuolo could send Carriker packing Saturday when the next wave of cuts comes down. Time for him to start acting like a first round pick.
Special Teams: Derek Stanley
The Rams have had just as much trouble with punt returns as the Chiefs. Unlike Kansas City, however, the Rams seemed to have settled on their man. Stanley has received all of the punt returns in the preseason except one. The problem is that he has been mostly ineffective. His longest return was 14 yards and in the first three preseason games he averaged 3, 6 and 10 yards per return. If the Chiefs coverage team is going to step up, it would seem Stanley is the guy to do it against.