CINCINNATI - AUGUST 20: Kevin Kolb #4 of the Philadelphia Eagles throws a pass during the NFL preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on August 20 2010 in Cincinnati Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
QB Kevin Kolb is the key player for the Eagles in 2010. What did we see from him this summer? What went on behind the numbers?
The success of the Eagles in the 2010 season rests more on Kevin Kolb than any other player. He's the starting quarterback on a team that likes to throw the ball a lot and has a slew of talented skill players. To paraphrase Sgt. Barnes from Platoon, "If he breaks down, the machine breaks down".
We all hoped Kevin would play lights out this summer and set the tone for a great season. That hasn't happened, for a variety of reasons. Blocking has been a problem at training camp and in the preseason games. Both DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin missed time in training camp and preseason games. Penalties, drops, and other errors of execution have stalled drives and frustrated everyone from players to coaches to fans.
This summer I wanted to see an efficient offense that would move the ball up and down the field based on precise execution. Instead, we lived and died with big plays, just as we have the past few years. We get down to the Red Zone and something goes awry. Some player forgets where to line up, who to block, or how to catch the ball. The bad news is that we don't have a specific trend to study. The good news is that the players work together, making sure that everyone takes part in screwing up. That's true teamwork. At least David Akers is there to save the day. He has to come out and nail a field goal, leaving us to gripe about what went wrong with the offense.
While the offense has been frustrating, Kolb is playing better than people think. His numbers stink, but there is an old adage that says there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. Numbers don't always tell the whole story. Sometimes they can be very misleading.
Kevin only completed 52.8 percent of his passes in the preseason. That might lead you to think he's having issues with his accuracy. Not so. Kevin made some tremendous throws. He threaded a pass to Brent Celek in the preseason opener that Celek dropped. The ball went between two defenders and was right on the money. That should have been a touchdown. Kevin made a pair of very impressive throws to Jeremy Maclin in the Chiefs game. Both were downfield and hit Maclin right in stride. Maclin wasn't able to catch either pass. On one pass the cornerback got away with interference. That play took place in the endzone and could have easily been a touchdown. The other pass required a great play by the defender to break it up, and even then it looked like Maclin still had a chance to make the grab.
Kevin completed some tough passes to DeSean Jackson. Kevin found him open in the flow of a play as well as when he's had to run for his life. Those two guys are definitely on the same page. Forget about the passing stats. Kevin is making quality throws more often than not. When given a clean pocket, he's shown the ability to be very accurate. I think he's fine mechanically.
There is one discouraging stat. Kevin didn't lead us on a touchdown drive this summer. That's not something you want to read about the starting quarterback. Again, though, let's look at what actually happened. Celek dropped one touchdown pass. Maclin might have had another, but was interfered with. Kevin did throw one touchdown, but it was called back due to an alignment penalty on Jason Peters. This isn't a case of our quarterback being ineffective. Sometimes you have bad luck. Brett Favre threw an accurate pass last week in the Red Zone, only to have it bounce off his receiver and then turned into a pick-six by a defensive back. Favre did his job. His receiver didn't. Kevin has gotten us to the Red Zone. He's made some mistakes to be sure, but has also give us some very good chances to score, only to have someone else let us down.
There are some issues that Kolb needs to work on. In the first couple of games he was plagued by "happy feet". This is when the quarterback won't settle down in the pocket. This probably started up at Lehigh as defenders got by the blockers. Kevin was anticipating pressure and bailing out at the first sign of heat. You can't do that. You've got to sit in the pocket as long as possible and focus on your passing progressions. Kevin did show improvement in this area against the Chiefs. He stood tall in the pocket and focused on his receivers. We need to see more of that.
Decision-making is possibly the most important area to judge a QB in. Kolb has been up and down. In the first game I thought he forced the ball at times. It seemed like Kevin had made a pre-snap read and was determined to go to a specific receiver. That's not what you want. The play is designed for Kevin to find the open guy and get him the ball in a timely fashion. Kevin has done that, both last year in his starts and in this preseason. We just need to see him be more consistent in making quick reads and good decisions.
Kevin has probably surprised a few people with some facets of his game. The spotty blocking he got forced him to run. Guess what? He looked pretty good on the move. Kevin showed good speed when running in the open. I also liked his escapability. The highlight play in that area came in the Chiefs game. The RDE drove Peters backward and Kevin was caught in heavy traffic. I thought he had been sacked and even fumbled the ball when watching the play live. Next thing you know, Kolb comes flying out of the group and runs for a 1st down. Sometimes the ability to move in a confined space is just as important as the ability to run in the open field.
Probably the biggest criticism from Kolb bashers was the fact that he's got a "noodle arm". I think anyone watching him this summer has found out that's not the case at all. Kevin doesn't have a strong arm, but he's good enough to make all the throws. His deep balls for Maclin were on target. He's thrown into traffic and gotten the ball to receivers. He's thrown on the move. Kolb only has one interception this preseason. That came when he forced a ball downfield and into double coverage. That was a bad decision. His arm was fine. The next time that arm strength becomes an issue will be late in the season when weather becomes a factor. That is something to watch.
One thing I love about Kolb from this summer is the way he's handled things. He could have panicked a bit when the offense wasn't clicking. That didn't happen. Kevin tried to rally the guys up on the sideline and get everyone re-focused. He's taken the blame when talking to the media. Kevin isn't pretending the criticism doesn't exist. He hears it. He acknowledges it. He then goes about trying to fix whatever the problems are. Not all young QBs know how to handle adversity and/or criticism. I think that cost Matt Leinart his job. I see Jay Cutler struggling in Chicago. Anyone watching Hard Knocks sees Mark Sanchez unsure of what to do and say at certain times. Kolb is far from perfect, but I like his approach to things. It should serve him well in the long run. After all, even great players are going to have some rough stretches from time to time.
The biggest thing we learned about Kevin Kolb this summer is that he's not a finished product. He has a lot of learning left to do. There will be good days and bad days. He's no rookie, but when you have more years in the league than actual starts, you're still a young QB and there will be growing pains. That's okay. We're reasonable fans. All he has to do is throw a lot of touchdowns, sweep Dallas, lead us to the Super Bowl, and appeal to us as a blue collar guy in the process. And maybe during the bye week Kolb could do something about the economy and getting Lindsay Lohan through rehab.
Good luck, Kevin. We'll be watching.