July 28, 2011
After a lot of haggling, the Arizona Cardinals got their man in former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb(notes). The price they paid in trade was very steep — a second-round pick in 2012, cornerback Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, and a $63 million contract with $21 million guaranteed — for a player of Kolb's relative inexperience. He's said to have all the tools to be a franchise quarterback, and he's still learning his craft, but there has to be some concern over the fact that he struggled at times in an offense so well set up for quarterback success. After watching six different Kolb games, here are my conclusions.
Drafted: Second round, 36th overall, 2007 NFL draft (Philadelphia Eagles)
Career Stats: 194 completions in 319 attempts for 2,082 yards, 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions
2010 Stats: 115 completions in 189 attempts for 1,197 yards, seven touchdowns and seven interceptions
Accuracy: Still learning the fine points of touch and timing, even on shorter throws. Will sail balls to the sideline at times and is certainly capable of airmailing deep throws. Some of this problem seems related to his inexperience; the better quarterbacks in this league make some completions Kolb might not because they can adjust to receivers having to break off their prescribed routes. No physical issues, though — Kolb clearly has the arm to make any throw he wants.
Arm strength: Has the arm to hit receivers on the move or on the run downfield, but takes too many chances — like a lot of young quarterbacks with big arms, he has a bit too much faith in that cannon. On the positive side, and unlike many younger big-armed quarterbacks, he has a good touch on shorter throws — he doesn't try to blow a hole in his receiver on an 5-yard out.
Setup/Release: Not always confident-looking under center or in shotgun; he'll bobble snaps and has trouble recovering from pressure in the pocket. Took 125 shotgun snaps to 76 under center and was far more efficient under center (-15.5 percent DVOA to +15.0 percent DVOA). Takes his set and gets a quick dropback very well; has a fine release when he sets his feet, but he tends to get frantic when the pocket isn't clean. Kolb has a quick, compact release, and he can zing the ball all over the place — we're just not always sure where it's going at this point.
Reading Defenses: Perhaps the most worrisome aspect of Kolb's play at this point is the extent to which he'll lock on to first reads and telegraph his intentions. Many of his picks come from jumped routes because defenders can read what he's doing. Takes chances with shovel passes and badly read throws out of pressure; this is a dangerous tendency his next coach will have to deal with. Kolb got a lot of underneath completions against zone defenses afraid of Philadelphia's deep threats; whether he could be as efficient in a more conservative offense is a point of conjecture.
Mobility: Great out of the pocket; Kolb has good quickness and can evade rushers to make throws after a hurry. Has functional running (not just scrambling) ability, though he's learned to stay disciplined and in the pocket as opposed to bailing at the first sign of trouble.
Conclusion: He's not really an ideal quarterback for a ball-control offense. Kolb has the better talent — and more mercurial play-by-play consistency — to both succeed and exasperate in a more vertical, chance-taking offense. He fits the pseudo-spread offense the Cadinals would ideally prefer to run, but he's going to be inconsistent when asked to make the deeper throws in a more vertical, three-digit offense. Kolb reminds me a bit of Jay Cutler(notes) in that regard.
There's no questioning Kolb's pure physical talent; you don't often see a guy this mobile (a true productive runner, not just a scrambler) with this kind of pure NFL arm.
The questions surrounding Kolb are all tied to his relative lack of experience, and it makes his high trade price (not to mention the final contract numbers) a real risk. If Kolb gets the hang of Ken Whisenhunt's system sooner than later, he has an outside shot at being the franchise quarterback the Cards have been lacking since Kurt Warner(notes) retired.
But he's still got a lot to learn, and given what Arizona gave up for him, Kevin Kolb had better get that finishing work together — and fast. He was drafted in the second round, and right now, he still looks like a second-round quarterback.
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