Aug 232010

Eagles QB Kevin Kolb

August 23 Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Bob Ford

Kevin Kolb is halfway through his dress rehearsals for the 2010 season. He will get another fairly extensive outing Friday against the Kansas City Chiefs and very little playing time in the exhibition finale against the New York Jets, and then the Eagles will turn loose this tough Texas bird and find out if he can really fly.

There have been some clues about his eventual identity, both during his appearances the last three seasons and in this year’s training camp, but nothing that the CSI lab could use for a positive match. So the wait continues.

There was one disquieting play against Cincinnati on Friday. It came near the end of the half when Kolb faced third and goal from the Bengals’ 12-yard line and, after some hemming and hawing and looking around, fired a 5-yard completion to Jason Avant.

The receiver was open and the throw and the catch were fine, but, given the situation, they were also pointless. It was the kind of third-down decision that was maddeningly repeated over the years by Donovan McNabb. The old joke was: “How do you guarantee a 7-yard completion for McNabb? Give him the ball with third and 10.”

As much as the fans, and the organization, want to see wins this season, or the real prospect of them, everyone also wants to see something different. If there are going to be frustrations, at least let them be new ones. No more passes at the feet of receivers. No more laughter after incompletions. And no more passes that won’t result in first downs or touchdowns, when those are the only reasonable aims.

That probably won’t be a problem for Kolb for any length of time. In his first season starting, there will be some plays that don’t look right. He’ll make rookie-starter mistakes and move on. (Why McNabb was still making them after a decade in the NFL is another question.)

“In that situation, a sack probably wouldn’t have hurt us that bad,” Kolb said of the play against Cincinnati. “I probably should have pushed the play a little bit more. I was getting toward the end of the read. Looking back, I probably could have got up and tried to make a play and do something a little out of the ordinary.”

As it was, David Akers came onto the field and completed a routine 25-yard field goal, which, one supposes, is what Andy Reid thinks the Eagles need to practice. In the future, you can expect Kolb to either take a loss looking for a more productive option (Akers can make 32-yard field goals, too) or invent that something “out of the ordinary,” which wasn’t always the strong suit of his interception-averse predecessor.

The Eagles will do everything to speed Kolb’s progress and protect him in the interim. They will search out the plays and formations that make him most likely to succeed, and some of those trends are emerging already.

It is dangerous to hang too much on three exhibition quarters, but Kolb has been a far more accurate and effective passer out of the shotgun formations thus far. He has completed 10 of 12 passes in the shotgun, and 7 of 16 after beginning under center.

What does that mean? Maybe nothing, but being able to read the defense from the moment of the snap, without being diverted by a play-action fake or simply the bother of dropping back and setting up, is a true advantage for any quarterback, not just an inexperienced one. In the NFL, according to the stats wizards at Football Outsiders, the percentage of shotgun-formation plays went from 15.5 percent in 2005 to 36 percent in 2009.”

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