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Football Notes

Interest in Kolb will be more than passing

By Greg A. Bedard
June 5, 2011

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Whenever the lockout ends, the quarterback carousel will begin, and the biggest target will be Eagles backup Kevin Kolb.

The 2007 second-round pick out of Houston will be 27 in August, and he has had some success as a starter the past two seasons (3-3, not including the 2010 finale against Dallas when starters were rested).

Teams desperate for a quarterback will bombard the Eagles the moment the lockout is lifted and transactions are allowed.

Not surprisingly, Eagles coach Andy Reid spent much of the owners meeting in New Orleans talking up Kolb.

“We’ve had a substantial amount of interest in Kevin Kolb,’’ Reid said in late March. “We know we have a championship-caliber quarterback in Kevin Kolb, so we’ve got to sit back and we’ve got to evaluate what’s best for the Eagles and then what’s best for Kevin.

“This guy is a heck of a football player, and I think everybody knows that. That’s not a secret. He’s even a better person. We’re very, very fortunate to have him as an Eagle.’’

What will the market bring for Kolb?

First, you have to look at the teams in the market. You can put them in two groups.

There are three teams desperate for a quarterback with no good options on the roster: the Cardinals, Redskins, and 49ers.

And then there is the “play it coy’’ group of teams that need a quarterback but act as if they’re all set to keep the price down: the Broncos, Bills, Seahawks, and Dolphins. The Browns could fit into this group, but Colt McCoy has some legitimate promise behind a very good offensive line and running game.

In an informal poll of seven general managers and personnel executives, four said Kolb was not worthy of a first-round pick, two said only if the team had no other options, and another said a late first-round pick could be justified.

“He is a good quarterback with promise, but we all need to be realistic about it,’’ the latter GM said.

Kolb has several things going for him, but he is far from a sure-fire prospect.

He has good size at 6 feet 3 inches and 218 pounds, a slightly above-average arm, and he is well-versed in the West Coast offense.

In his three starts in relief of Michael Vick last season, Kolb completed 70 of 108 passes (64.8 percent) for 810 yards and five touchdowns against three interceptions. His career completion percentage is 60.8, and Kolb is well-liked among teammates.

The Eagles will send out the tape of Kolb against the Falcons, and for good reason. He was 23 of 29 (79.3 percent) for 326 yards and three touchdowns as the Eagles handed the Falcons one of their three regular-season losses.

However, Falcons standout cornerback Dunta Robinson was injured early in the game, and Atlanta had a mediocre pass rush last year (tied for 20th with 31 sacks).

What the teams looking into Kolb will have to determine is whether the Falcons game was the start of a quarterback maturing or just an aberration — another version of A.J. Feeley.

Feeley had some success as an Eagles backup and was traded to the Dolphins in 2004 for a second-round pick. He was gone after two seasons and has played on four teams since.

Aside from the Falcons game, Kolb’s playing time looks about the same. He operates the short to intermediate passing game of the West Coast offense fine, but he isn’t accurate deep. He reads coverages slowly, takes a while to get through his progressions, and his feel for the pocket is average.

Kolb also gets flustered by pressure to the point where he starts looking at the rush instead of downfield. If you develop a habit of doing that, you’re not going to last long in the NFL.

The best example of this was in the 2010 season opener against the Packers. Kolb left the game with a concussion before halftime, but there was enough in the early going to give teams pause.

Reid chose to give the Packers and defensive coordinator Dom Capers much of the credit for Kolb’s struggles.

“Dom put together a good blitz plan,’’ Reid said. “I didn’t think we did a good job up front against it, which didn’t give Kevin a great opportunity to throw the football. By the time we made the adjustments, he was hurt. So that’s one of those things.’’

What Reid left unsaid was that because it was the season opener, the Eagles had game-planned weeks in advance. And since the Packers started a rookie at safety (Morgan Burnett), and an undrafted nickel back who barely played corner in college (Sam Shields), the Packers were very cautious in the secondary.

Reid said Kolb improved as the season went on.

“What you saw later on in the year is what Kevin’s all about — two-time NFC Offensive Player of the Week, the 300-yard games he put together, the leadership,’’ Reid said. “He gives you so much flexibility to do so many things offensively that he’s kind of a treat to coach. Kevin Kolb is a sharp cookie.’’

The benchmark for a trade with a quarterback in Kolb’s situation is Matt Schaub, who went from the Falcons to the Texans in 2007, when he, too, was Vick’s backup and the same age as Kolb. The teams swapped first-round picks (Falcons moved up two spots) and the Falcons received second-round picks in each of the next two drafts. Schaub received an eight-year, $48 million deal.

The Redskins likely won’t be foolish enough to deal with the Eagles in the division again (Donovan McNabb, oops), and while the 49ers could certainly jump in, the smart money is on the Cardinals to give up at least a first-round pick for Kolb when all is said and done.

Some gamesmanship has gone on during the offseason, as the Cardinals have let it be known that they would be fine dealing for Kyle Orton of the Broncos if the price for Kolb gets too high.

Because of his lack of elite arm strength and trouble with the rush, Kolb will need a solid offensive line and a good running game. At this point, the Cardinals have neither. But coach Ken Whisenhunt knows you can’t go anywhere without a quarterback.

For Kolb’s sake, San Francisco would probably be the ideal landing spot since the 49ers have a variety of weapons and some talent on the line.

Of course, the Eagles hope somebody from the play-it-coy group gets involved to drive up the price.

All we need now is for the carousel to start.

BUFFALO ROUNDUP
QB Fitzpatrick gets it together The Bills had four days of workouts last week, and 37 players showed up. They were organized by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, the former Harvard standout.

“I thought it went great, even better than I think any of the expectations,’’ said Fitzpatrick. “It was kind of thrown together at the last minute. We asked guys to come out and spend some time out here, a lot of them away from their families. We had a great turnout and I think we got a lot out of it.’’

The Bills will likely have another session in July, and possibly a passing camp in the interim near Fitzpatrick’s home in Arizona.

“We’ve got to plan like this thing is going to go on until training camp,’’ he said. “So we’ll get together one or two more times, depending on the timing of it. We’ve got to get together a couple more times, especially quarterback, receiver, running back, get some timing down.’’

Injuries are a big fear with these practices; the players have to sign waivers at the places they work out, and some are taking out their own insurance policies. The Bills got a scare when linebacker Reggie Torbor got into a car accident — at the entrance to the workout facility. Torbor was unhurt, though, and took part in the workout, though his car had to be towed away.

Also attending was defensive lineman Marcell Dareus, the third overall pick — to the chagrin of his agent, Todd France.

“There was not a doubt in my mind I’m coming,’’ Dareus said. “My agent was like, ‘Marcell, you’ve got to do the insurance thing, you’re not covered with [the Bills] yet.’ I said, ‘You know Todd, I still want to go out there and show my face. I’m the first pick.’

“The [players] were kind of like, ‘We want him out here.’ I’m not going to turn them down, because I’ve got to show some kind of support because I do want to be out here.’’

COURTING TROUBLE
Kennan filing ruffles feathers NFL Coaches Association director Larry Kennan (left) has had a rough couple of weeks.

First he had to apologize to the Packers for saying — incorrectly — that their assistant coaches had to swallow pay cuts, and now he has more people distancing themselves from him than Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The NFLCA filed an amicus brief last week in the Brady v. NFL case, supporting the players’ position that the lockout should be ended by the courts.

Since then, 12 teams have said their coaches either didn’t give their consent to or didn’t agree with the NFLCA’s position. You could probably make it all 32 teams, because you’d be hard-pressed to find an assistant coach who will tell a head coach or an owner that, yes, they are wrong.

Kennan has said he didn’t take a vote on the subject, he just informed the rank-and-file that he would file the brief.

While Kennan has often had to take unpopular positions on behalf of assistant coaches who can’t lend their own voices out of fear of repercussions, it’s not hard to see why he filed the brief: The NFLCA is housed by and affiliated with the NFL Players Association.

This isn’t the first time a court filing has put the assistants in a bad spot. The NFLCA filed an amicus brief in the American Needle v. NFL Supreme Court case, which the NFL lost, 9-0. The NFLCA supported American Needle’s position that the league must be seen as 32 separate teams and not a single entity for antitrust purposes.

ETC.
Saints tight with Thomas The Saints have been one of the more active teams when it comes to lockout workouts, and one player generating a lot of talk is tight end David Thomas, the third-round pick of the Patriots in 2006 who was traded before the start of the 2009 season. Thomas is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent when the lockout ends, but everyone expects him to be back with the Saints. “He’s an unsung hero,’’ said quarterback Drew Brees. “I think the world of David Thomas. I think he’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever had, because he’s willing to sacrifice whatever it takes for the good of the team. And there’s not a selfish bone in his body. He’s always thinking about ‘how I can help the team, and when I’m called upon to make a play, I’m going to make it, whether it’s making the key block on a run play or a pass play or catching the ball down the field or whatever it might be.’ I mean, the guy is just the ultimate teammate, he really is. I can’t say enough about him. And I know that he’s a big part of our plans in the future.’’ Thomas, who is mostly a blocking H-back and red zone target, should have a bigger role after Jeremy Shockey was released.

Different agendas One more tidbit from “Play Like You Mean It,’’ the book by Jets coach Rex Ryan: Even the Jets knew Brett Favre would come back to get revenge on the Packers when he retired from the Jets in 2009. “Part of me really wanted to coach Favre and I think we would have been great with him,’’ Ryan wrote. “But he said he was retiring, and I could just feel that he didn’t want to play here again. It was obvious he wanted to play for Minnesota so that he could try to get his revenge on Green Bay . . . If we hadn’t drafted Mark Sanchez, I would have flown down to Mississippi just like Brad Childress did, and I would have brought Favre back to New York no matter what it took . . . but that wasn’t really our first choice. We didn’t want to wait for Favre and have our whole team held hostage by his offseason routine. We needed leaders in the locker room right away, not in a few months.’’

Short yardage Interesting to note that former Boston College quarterback Matt Hasselbeck took the lead, with former Patriots safety Lawyer Milloy, in having Seahawks players hold practices in the Seattle area last week. Hasselbeck and Milloy are both unrestricted free agents and might not be back with the team. Other NFL players in the area were welcomed to the workouts, and the total attendance was about 40 . . . NFL owners will vote June 21 on a proposal to allow teams to reduce stadium capacity by up to 15 percent to avoid blackouts. Teams would have to announce the capacity in July but would have the option to sell the covered seats if there is a demand. The Jaguars were the first team to do this in 2005 and were laughed at . . . Lions coach Jim Schwartz is so bored by the lockout that he took to Twitter to find a nickname for the team’s defensive line. “Silver Crush’’ — a nod to the team’s Silver Rush of the late 1970s and early ’80s — was the winner. It seems a little presumptuous to be naming a group when the team hasn’t posted a winning record since 2000, but go nuts. Nothing else is going on . . . Speaking of looking for things to do during the lockout, Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards will fight professionally for the second time June 24. He won his first fight last month and wants to continue boxing even after the lockout ends.

Greg A. Bedard can be reached at gbedard@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @greg_a_bedard. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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