What I Want to See from Kevin Kolb in Preseason
Kevin Kolb has been the story of the lockout. He was the number-one topic of conversation during the labor dispute and soon will be the most scrutinized starting quarterback of the 2011 season.
The scrutiny will begin in earnest Thursday night when the Arizona Cardinals play the Oakland Raiders in week one of the NFL's 2011 preseason.
Aside from the usual, overt critiques of solid quarterbacking, I will be looking for subtle progress from the would-be king. Kolb's quick-release, accuracy, arm-strength, athleticism and overall production will be apparent for all to see. But below the surface are intrinsic attributes that make a quarterback great. Assuming he has the talent to be a starting quarterback in the NFL these attributes are often times the difference between finding a Kyle Orton or Aaron Rodgers.
Keep in mind the things I want to see in Kevin Kolb are not exclusive to the Raiders game; I want to see him make progress as the preseason advances. Ken Whisenhunt has already implied that Kolb will play more than a typical starting quarterback normally would. He needs reps with this offense and there's only one way for him to get those game-reps: play.
Having said this:
I want to see Kevin Kolb command the huddle and the tempo of the offense. Although he has only had a few practices with his new team, the coaches aren't going to give him more than he can handle. I want to see how smoothly and efficiently he handles the play calls, how quickly he gets the offense in and out of the huddle and how many time-outs - if any - he burns trying to manage the offense.
I want to see Kevin Kolb read coverage and make good decisions. Due to the lockout and not having the benefit of OTA's and mini-camps to coordinate with his receivers, Kolb's timing isn't going to be mid-season ready and he's still learning the offense. Physically, he might make poor throws or mentally not be on the same page as his receiver, but where are his eyes going? How well does he read coverage and look defenders off? Was the receiver open? Is he trying to force the ball to Larry Fitzgerald? Was he late on the fade and didn't see the safety rolling over the top? Did he see the safety or try to force a ball into an impossible window? Nobody is perfect but I want to see a lot more good decisions than bad.
I want to see Kevin Kolb take a hit, get up and play well. Kolb is slight. Although he is not small by NFL standards (6'3" and 218-pounds) he isn't big either. He has had injury issues in Philadelphia. The concussion he suffered in Week-1 of the 2010 season was the reason Michael Vick had the opportunity to shine and why Kolb couldn't get back on the field. I fully understand you can't plan your football team around injuries but I want to see some resilience, toughness and resolve from Kolb. All the good ones took a licking, kept on ticking and made you pay dearly for your insolence.
I want to see Kevin Kolb deal with the severe pressure of expectation. The Cards gave up a lot for Kolb…and he knows it. It's one thing for a professional athlete to perform on stage and quite another thing to perform on stage when everybody already has preconceived assumptions as to how well you're going to play. Even in the relatively generic schemes of preseason, completing passes to receivers running full-speed with two-legged pit bulls collapsing around you is not an easy thing to do - especially when people assume it is.
Finally, I want to see Kevin Kolb bond with his teammates and lead. Every great leader I have been around in any locker room had a certain charisma, a je ne sais quoi that was hard to pinpoint but undeniable. Leaders do, but many of them also say. They may not do it publicly, but privately - within the confines of their playground - they let their teammates know exactly what they can expect from them. When it happens often enough and the say-er becomes the doer, more times than not, the shared success endears that person to his peers.
Kolb was a "rock-star in the Eagles locker room;" will he have the same impact on his teammates here in Arizona? Only time will tell but that time is running short. Thursday night the whistle will blow, the signal will be given and the clock will start ticking down on the Kevin Kolb era.
As the preseason unfolds don't just look at Kolb's quarterback-rating. Demand more: look at his je ne sais quoi quotient.