John Smallwood | Kolb's schooling just beginning

Posted: August 14, 2007

BALTIMORE - If this were a normal NFL preseason opener, even charged-up Eagles fans probably would have tuned out last night after the Birds trailed 13-3 at halftime of their 29-3 loss to the Ravens.

But preseason games are never normal when a highly drafted rookie pegged as the quarterback of the future is thrown into the mix.

And since everyone knew ahead of time that Donovan

McNabb wasn't going to test his surgically repaired knee at least until Friday against the Carolina Panthers, the professional debut of rookie Kevin Kolb took an even greater spotlight.

OK, so Kolb isn't the No. 1 overall pick, like unsigned Oakland Raiders rookie JaMarcus Russell, and he doesn't come with the Golden Dome hype of Cleveland first-year QB Brady Quinn.

Heck, even though Kolb was drafted three rounds earlier, Ravens rookie Troy Smith likely had more name recognition as the Heisman Trophy winner.

Kolb was a surprising selection as the first player the Eagles took off the board in the draft, 36th overall. And with McNabb coming off a serious injury for the second straight season and third time in five, there certainly has been debate over what the team's quarterback situation might look like in the near future.

"I'm really excited to get out there in this game," Kolb had said in his digital diary posted Sunday on the Eagles' Web site. "We've been grinding against the same players in training camp, so I'm ready to test my skill against somebody else.

"The Ravens are a great team to start with, because they are known for their defense."

Even though Baltimore had gone to reserves by the time Kolb entered the game, the Ravens still gave the rookie from the University of Houston a physical welcome to the NFL. On his first snap, Kolb lined up in the shotgun and fired a pass to Greg Lewis. Ravens linebacker Dennis Haley didn't pull up after Kolb released the ball and popped him in the chest, drawing a personal foul.

On his second snap, Kolb was sacked for a 16-yard loss.

They were the first of many hits he absorbed playing behind an

offensive line of reserves that struggled to contain Baltimore's blitz-happy rush. Kolb was sacked twice and seemed to get hit every time he went back to pass.

"Obviously, it didn't go as planned," said Kolb, who completing 11 of 20 passes for 77 yards, "but we got the feel for it. We got our feet wet and now we move on.

"We knew we were playing the Ravens, so you know you're going to get some heat. Some of it was my fault because I should have gotten the ball out quicker.

"I thought I did some things all right, but there's a lot to improve on, obviously - work on slowing things down at the line, take a better look at the defense, know the down-and-distance better. Things that come along as you start to calm down. Once I feel more comfortable, those things will come along.''

Still, for as much as you can determine in a game in which Kolb was playing with and against players on the borderline of making the cut, the rookie showed some flashes. He made some nice throws and a few poor ones. He got some help from receivers who made a couple of tough catches, and was hurt by a couple of drops.

"It's hard to say right now because I have to look at the film," Kolb said, when asked what he thought were his best and worst plays. "Come [today] we'll get a good look at the film and pick at my play some."

In a clear indication that he at least grasps the root tenets of

Reid's offensive philosophy, Kolb spread the ball around, completing passes to 10 receivers.

Kolb's best sequence came in the third quarter, when he completed two passes to Jeremy Bloom and had a 12-yard toss to tight end Brent Celek.

The Eagles appeared to be putting together a good drive when Kolb and fullback Nate Ilaoa got their signals crossed. Kolb tried to hand off to Ilaoa, who was setting up to block. Kolb fumbled, ending the drive.

"I saw some good things there and I saw some things he needs to work on," Reid said of Kolb's debut. "But I think the majority of it was pretty good.

"Obviously [the Ravens] are a team that likes to blitz a lot and we didn't spend a lot of time on their packages. [Kolb] handled that about as well as it could be handled."

Kolb's first game is out of the way. The debates are just beginning. *

Send e-mail to

smallwj@phillynews.com.

For recent columns, go to

http://go.philly.com/smallwood.

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