Les Bowen: Eagles' Further Review: QB decision must come soon

Kevin Kolb is playing the way the Eagles hoped he would.
Kevin Kolb is playing the way the Eagles hoped he would.
Posted: October 19, 2010

IF YOU combined the Eagles' quarterbacks into "Michael Kolb," as Andy Reid jokingly did after Sunday's game, you'd get a 64.7 percent completion rate, 1,603 passing yards through six games, 11 touchdowns, two interceptions and a 103.3 passer rating - which would rank this mythical QB second in the NFL, behind only Peyton Manning.

"They work together like puzzle pieces," tight end Brent Celek said.

But it's an odd sort of puzzle, one in which you never see the pieces on the table together, because quarterbacking is not a two-man job. Andy's jolly jests aside, there will be some sort of reckoning soon, a choice to be made between a healthy, productive Kevin Kolb and a healthy, productive Michael Vick. It probably won't come before the bye, because Reid, looking to avoid a circus, decreed yesterday that "there's a pretty good chance Kevin's the guy this week," Vick not fully recovered from a rib cartilage tear. Sunday's game at Tennessee is the last before the Eagles take their annual break.

Strong arguments can be made for both QBs. No question, Vick's amazing speed and elusiveness add an element Kolb lacks. But Kolb, who still has started only five games in his career, seemed to improve dramatically these past few weeks, given the chance to play every snap. He completed 73.3 percent of his passes against San Francisco and Atlanta. That is something Vick is unlikely to do; as well as Vick has played this season, his completion percentage is 61.5 percent.

Reid noted yesterday that Kolb "got everybody involved" against the Falcons, adjusting smoothly to losing DeSean Jackson to a concussion at the start of the second quarter, even though Jackson had been a huge part of the game plan.

Wideout Jason Avant said something interesting after Sunday's game. After speaking of how proud he was of Kolb for bouncing back so well from the unexpected benching following Week 2, Avant said: "If you can keep him clean, I think he's as good as anybody."

That speaks to Vick's main advantage over Kolb - mobility, elusiveness - but it also might speak to changing circumstances. When Reid executed his Sept. 21 about-face and made Vick his starter, the subtext was that the Eagles' offensive line was a shambles, and Vick had a better chance of being productive behind a line that couldn't protect. The line seems to be settling down, though, even with King Dunlap currently subbing for $60 million left tackle Jason Peters. Max Jean-Gilles is holding his own at right guard now. Mike McGlynn looks just fine at center. Kolb took the blame for the only Falcons sack Sunday.

Is Vick really a better option, if the o-line is stable? Does Reid really believe that, to the degree that he can look Kolb in the eye in a week or so and tell him he's going back to the bench? Or, if the situation has indeed changed, how do you tell Vick, who is 30 years old, that this isn't going to be his big shot at redemption after all?

Reid was asked yesterday whether he just thinks about 2010 or if he factors the future into such a decision.

"I try to evaluate everything," he said. "I try to think about it and then make the decision. Sometimes you're right, sometimes you're wrong, but I try to think about it in all different variables, and then roll with it."

DEVELOPING STORY LINES

* Going into last night's game agains Jacksonville, this week's opponent, the Tennessee Titans, led the NFL in red-zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns on 73.3 percent of their trips inside the 20, and in red-zone defense, holding opponents to a 26.1 percent touchdown rate.

* The Eagles, by the way, were tied for eighth in red-zone offense but were 31st in red-zone defense.

* LeSean McCoy ranked fourth in yards from scrimmage with 668, 429 rushing and 239 receiving. He trailed only Arian Foster, Frank Gore and Ahmad Bradshaw.

* Jason Babin, the defensive end the Eagles didn't bring back after last season, had 5 1/2 sacks for the Titans before last night's game, half a sack more than Trent Cole, and three more than Babin produced here last season in a limited role.

* Brent Celek (four catches, 46 yards) seemed to snap out of his funk after an early drop against the Falcons, which is something to keep an eye on this week. With no DeSean Jackson, Celek might have to step up and take the prime-time role lots of people anticipated when the season began.

WHO KNEW?

Two words: King Dunlap!

OBSCURE STAT

The Eagles led the NFC in turnover differential, at plus-8, coming out of Sunday's games, and were third in the NFL.

EXTRA POINT

Sometimes, players make decisions for you.

The Eagles picked up Jorrick Calvin just before the season started, with the idea he could help their return game. But when healthy, last year's regulars, Ellis Hobbs on kickoffs and DeSean Jackson on punts, have gotten the call.

Calvin subbed for Hobbs on a kickoff against San Francisco and took it 38 yards, the Birds' best return of the day. Then, this week, Jackson went down on that horrific hit from Dunta Robinson, ending the day for both players. The next punt, Calvin was the returner, and he zipped 44 yards to set up an Eagles touchdown.

Replacing Hobbs with Calvin (inadverent comic strip reference!) ought not to be that hard of a call. Hobbs has plenty to do, playing corner. He is an OK kick returner, less than scintillating. Replacing Jackson is harder to do - one of the challenges the Eagles face is getting the ball into Jackson's hands as many times a game as possible. Taking him off punts works against that goal. Plus, he was the NFC's Pro Bowl returner last season. If he's back there, you know there's always the chance the punt is coming all the way back.

But that hasn't happened this season, hasn't come real close to happening. The blocking hasn't been there, but there also have been times when Jackson hasn't seemed all that into trying to make something out of nothing. Talking to him, you don't get the notion he'd be offended if someone else was awarded the punt- return task.

With Jackson sidelined by a concussion, the obvious candidate to return punts this week is Calvin. Bobby April ought to just let him settle into both jobs, and let Hobbs and Jackson concentrate on their normal tasks. *

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