Eagles QB Kolb gets some pre-snap backing from Jaworski, Baldinger

Posted: July 23, 2010

THE QUARTERBACK torch has been passed from the six-time Pro Bowler to the 25-year-old probie, and now, all eyes will turn to the little town of Bethlehem on Monday as everyone anxiously waits to find out whether the Eagles' faith in Kevin Kolb is justified or misguided.

Were Kolb's two 300-yard performances against the Saints and Chiefs early last season an indication of things to come or simply the result of what can happen when you throw the ball 85 times against two bad pass defenses? The Eagles believe it was the former. Critics of the April trade of Donovan McNabb to the Washington Redskins currently are leaning toward the latter. We will discover the truth soon enough.

For what it's worth, Ron Jaworski and Brian Baldinger agree with the Eagles. The two former players and current ESPN (Jaworski) and NFL Network (Baldinger) broadcasters are anticipating a smooth McNabb-to-Kolb transition in South Philadelphia.

"I have extremely high expectations for him and this offense,'' Baldinger said. "I think they're going to be a top-five offense in the league this year.

"What's going to be different is, you're going to see a lot more yards after the catch. I think you'll see an offense that doesn't have as many three and outs. I think there's going to be more rhythm to it. And I think, at the end of the season, people are going to say, 'Hey, you know, Andy Reid is a pretty damn good coach. I like that play-calling.' ''

When the Eagles selected Kolb with the 36th overall pick in the 2007 draft, Jaworski panned the move. He had Kolb rated no better than the eighth quarterback in the draft. Kolb ended up being the third one taken, behind only JaMarcus Russell (first by the Raiders) and Brady Quinn (22nd by the Browns).

Now, Jaworski has done a U-turn on Kolb and thinks he absolutely, positively has the right stuff to be a successful quarterback.

"I know the sampling isn't huge right now, but he's gotten much better,'' Jaworski said. "I was pretty critical of Kevin when he came out. Because I didn't see enough throws [at the University of Houston] that projected him to the NFL passing game.

"But like [the Packers'] Aaron Rodgers, he's gotten better every year he's been in the league, playing behind McNabb. Rodgers played behind [Brett] Favre. He learned the game, learned how to play the game. He practiced, he studied and he got better.

"I think Kevin falls into that same mode. And I think his arm has actually gotten stronger. He's always been accurate. The two games he started last season, I thought he was very accurate. The key to playing the quarterback position is anticipation. That comes from the comfort level he has. Understanding the offense. Understanding reading coverage. The anticipation was there.''

Kolb is a different type of quarterback than McNabb. He doesn't have McNabb's big arm. But he has better mechanics than McNabb and is more accurate. He is a rhythm passer who gets the ball out quickly and allows his receivers to gain yards after the catch.

"I really like his decision-making,'' Jaworski said. "If you go back to last year, I thought the two games he played, he made outstanding decisions. The speed with which he reads the coverage, watching him last year, he knew where to go with the football. I remember very few bad decisions.''

Baldinger also sees a different Kevin Kolb now than the one he saw 3 years ago, when the kid came out of the University of Houston.

"He looks like a man now,'' Baldinger said. "He's much bigger and stronger physically. From a mental standpoint, I think he has a complete grasp of what to do, where to go, where his outlets are. He understands protections. He knows how to prepare. And he's got good ball placement, which is what this offense is based on.''

Reid is a disciple of the West Coast offense. But the version of it he ran in the 11 seasons McNabb was his quarterback was much different than the one they used to run in San Francisco with Joe Montana and Steve Young, or the one Reid's mentor, Mike Holmgren, ran in Green Bay with Favre.

He played to McNabb's strength, which was the bazooka arm, and tried to minimize his primary weakness, which was inaccuracy.

"If you look at their offense under McNabb, it was more of a vertical passing offense,'' Jaworski said. "You can say it was, in theory, a West Coast-style offense. But I don't think it ever was. It was more of a downfield, protection-style passing game. Which, to me, was the right thing to do considering the guy you had at quarterback.

"You exploited the big arm that Donovan had. You had the potential for big plays with the long throws. But it really wasn't the West Coast offense you saw with Young and Montana. The short, quick, accurate throws. That's what you'll see with Kevin.''

McNabb ranks 22nd in career touchdowns (216), 24th in career passing yards (32,873) and third in career interception percentage (2.1). But he's no better than 45th in career completion percentage (.590). He's been over 62 percent just once in his 11 pro seasons. Kolb completed 62 of 96 passes last season for a .646 completion percentage.

"Donovan could only throw fastballs,'' Baldinger said. "He had no touch on the ball at all. This guy has all the touch. He throws a really catchable ball.

"Donovan's got a strong arm. One of the guilty pleasures of guys with strong arms is they love to show it off. Unfortunately, if you're coming across the middle and you get your head turned around late and the ball's on you like fire, you probably don't catch a lot of those balls. But if it's thrown with touch and it's on the spot, you have a good chance of catching those balls, even if you get [your head] around late on it.''

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