Second-year quarterback Kevin Kolb didn't have a particularly strong game against the Steelers. Is this cause for concern? Some fans are sure acting that way. There is a vocal minority that is back to questioning why the Eagles selected Kolb and doubting his ability.
I watched Kolb play at the University of Houston for four seasons. I watched him in the 2007 preseason. He has the talent to be a good starting NFL quarterback. The fact he was a bit sloppy in a preseason opener is hardly reason to panic. I guarantee you that Kolb remains confident in his ability and the coaching staff remains committed to him.
Most quarterbacks are developed. They take time to adjust to the pro game. There are special guys like Donovan McNabb, Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger who had success very early. Those guys are the exception and not the rule. People think of Tom Brady and Brett Favre as being guys who made an immediate impact. Neither player hit the field until the middle of his second season and only did so due to injury. Brady and Favre were not expected to do anything heading into that second season. Once they hit the field, there was no looking back. The point is that in August of Brady's and Favre's second season both of the future Hall of Fame quarterbacks were still question marks.
Tony Romo sat on the bench for three years. Matt Hasselbeck was a backup for three years in Green Bay before going to Seattle and becoming the starter. Kurt Warner was cut by an NFL team. He then went to the Arena League. He then went to NFL Europe. He spent a year on the bench and he didn't finally get on the field until Trent Green got hurt. Warner then led one of the greatest offenses in the history of pro football. Most quarterbacks need time to develop. Rarely is this an overnight process.
We're still very early in the development of Kevin Kolb. He's played in five preseason games. He took a handful of snaps in one regular season game. Kolb is still learning the offense. He's still adjusting to pro football. Be patient. Kolb is a work in progress. There will be ups and downs. That is simply part of his development.
There is no guarantee he will pan out and become the player we expect. You can coach, train and develop players as carefully as possible, but you never know exactly what will happen until they hit the field. I very much believe Kolb will succeed if he does get his chance. He started for all four of his years at Houston, so he was very experienced at the college level. Kolb doesn't have a rocket arm and he's not a special athlete, but he is athletic enough to start in the NFL. He's smart, makes good reads, and is an accurate passer. I also love the fact he's very competitive and the son of a coach. Kolb can handle criticism and will work through that because of his desire to succeed.
Last year Kolb started slowly. He threw for 77 yards in the preseason opener and had a rating of 64. In game two, he threw for 78 yards and had a rating of 79.7. The final two preseason games were a different story. Kolb threw for 462 yards, two touchdowns and had a passer rating over 95. The more he played, the better he got. I fully expect Kolb to get better each game this preseason. He did look rusty at times last week, but with a game under his belt, I think we'll see a much better performance against the Panthers on Thursday. My hope for Kolb is to play well enough over the next three weeks that the coaching staff will make him the primary backup at quarterback. That would be a big step for him.
When you watch Kolb over the next three games don't look for a polished product. Watch him with the mindset that you are looking to see signs of progress. Is he moving the offense? Is he in command out on the field? Is he making good decisions? Is he on time and on target with his throws?
DEPTH CHARTS ... BALONEY?
Watching the game against the Steelers was a good reminder of how the depth chart is not what it once was. Modern football is very package oriented. Teams run base units, but mix in specialized packages a lot. Against Pittsburgh the Eagles had Kevin Curtis, Greg Lewis, Jason Avant, DeSean Jackson and Hank Baskett on the field with the number one offense. Lorenzo Booker was split out like a receiver. Reggie Brown and Brian Westbrook would have seen time out there as well if they played. Fans get caught up in who the number four or number five receiver is. That really isn't important. Guys get worked into the offense in different packages based on their skill set.
Defensive end Chris Clemons might list as the number three left defensive end, but he'll be a key part of the nickel and dime defensive units. Darren Howard goes from backup end to starting tackle in certain nickel and dime units.
Just because a player doesn't start in the base unit doesn't mean he isn't important or valued by the team. Football in this day and age is filled with role players and specialists. Justin Tuck wasn't a starter for the Giants last year, but think about the impact he had on their season. Depth charts can be fun to look at, but really don't tell you the whole story any more.
Jed Collins is getting reps with the number one offense. What does this mean? I'm not sure that Collins is on track to win the job so much as the coaches are sending a wake-up message to Jason Davis and Luke Lawton. Andy Reid said Collins was the best of the group on special teams against the Steelers. Davis and Lawton have some advantages on Collins, but they can't feel comfortable right now. Those guys have to go out and play for their football lives.
The Eagles don't use a fullback a lot anymore. That is a position that is fading in both college and pro football. The Eagles need someone that can help on offense as well as special teams. If one of the players was incredibly gifted as a blocker or receiver they could get by without being a force on special teams. However, one of the three will have to stand out while blocking on returns and covering kicks to make this team.