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Category:NFL
Posted on: August 14, 2010 10:43 am
 

Kolb impressive in first game as Eagles' starter

It is admittedly easy to get caught up in the hype of a strong preseason performance, but Kevin Kolb looked every bit the part of a future NFL star in his 2010 debut as the Philadelphia Eagles' starting quarterback last night against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Kolb's stat line -- 6/11 for 95 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions -- is far from jaw-dropping, but in one quarter of action Kolb engineered two scoring drives and seemed on his way to another before being lifted mid-drive for Michael Vick once the second quarter began.

What was most impressive about Kolb's performance was his poise and accuracy on a variety of routes.

Kolb's first pass was a perfectly placed slant to DeSean Jackson for 21 yards. His next was a crossing route for 29 yards to Jeremy Maclin. Both passes caught his athletic wideouts in stride and allowed them to use their agility and straight-line speed to generate significant yardage after the catch. The first pass came from under center. The second from the shotgun.

In between the two throws, Kolb was forced to scramble to get a first down. On third and five, Kolb, out of the shotgun, sensed the pressure and scrambled left, faking a throw to freeze Jaguar defenders just enough for him to get six yards, escape untouched out of bounds and pick up the first down. In doing so, he ran to the Philadelphia sideline, where his excited teammates congratulated him with yells and slaps on the helmet.

Kolb, however, didn't look excited. He looked poised and ready for the next play. The pocket sense, balance and athleticism he showed in running for the first down were elements of his game Kolb for which is rarely recognized. Some, in fact, have argued that mobility is one of the areas in which the Eagles will miss Donovan McNabb the most, but not in this game.  Kolb ran twice, picking up 15 yards total.

Kolb's stat line would have been better if not for a couple of rare drops from his tight end (and training camp roommate) Brent Celek. Each of the passes, including what should have been a touchdown from the 11-yard line, came in hot, but hit Celek in the hands.

The Eagles surprised us all by trading McNabb to division-rival Washington in April. It was natural to characterize head coach Andy Reid and general manager Howie Roseman's decision to trade the potential Hall of Fame quarterback as risky, especially considering that Kolb had only two starts in three seasons since being drafted in the second round (No. 36 overall) out of Houston.

Kolb's impressive performance, however, was eerily similar to the one that Aaron Rodgers had in his first preseason action as Green Bay's starter after trading Brett Favre to the New York Jets. Rodgers was 9 of 15 for 117 yards, a touchdown and an interception (deflection).  The stats might be a little different, but the moxie, accuracy and mobility that Rodgers showed in that contest had to be comforting to general manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy.

It is far (FAR!) too early to think that Kolb will be able to make the same seamless transition from former high pick biding his time behind a superstar to emerging as one in his own right as Rodgers has done for the Packers.

But the fact that Kolb was successful in his first start since taking over for McNabb is encouraging. Even more so was how he engineered that success.


Posted on: August 7, 2010 3:43 pm
 

WR Tate, FS Thomas immediate hits in Seattle

With each of their first three picks of the 2010 draft -- OT Russell Okung, FS Earl Thomas and WR Golden Tate -- thought likely to win starting jobs for the Seattle Seahawks, their rookie class could be one of the more critical first-year groups in all of the NFL.

I've attended several OTA and training camp practices at the team's facility since the draft, including today's morning practice.

Considering that he was the last 2010 rookie to sign his contract and the gargantuan shoes he has to fill in taking over for Walter Jones, former No. 6 overall pick Russell Okung is certain to earn plenty of attention this season. So far, Okung has been characterized as "solid, but not spectacular" by those close to the team. He lined up with the second-team unit on Friday, his first practice since signing his deal, but had been moved up to the first-team today.

The more impressive players, thus far, have been Seattle's "other" first round pick, free safety Earl Thomas and second round pick, wide receiver/returner Golden Tate.

Thomas' instincts, quick feet and ball-skills have been on display. Though veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has been able to take advantage of the rookie's aggression, at times, Thomas has more than held his own. An interception in the end-zone was one of the best plays I saw during the June OTAs and he's consistently been in good position to make plays in training camp, as well. Considering Seattle's questionable pass rush and the rookie target on his chest, Thomas could be challenged early and often. With Thomas' ball skills and solid play from cornerbacks Marcus Trufant, Kelly Jennings and Josh Wilson, the 2010 No. 14 overall pick could enjoy a rookie campaign similar to the stunning breakout campaign that Jairus Byrd had last year with the Buffalo Bills. Byrd tied for the NFL lead with nine interceptions last season despite missing a couple games due to a groin injury.

Tate has been characterized to me by Seahawks' staff as having "made at least one big play each day" so far. His strong, compact frame and vision has already made him one to watch for the quick passes that offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates likes and he's shown a burst as a returner, as well.

The impressive leaping ability that characterized many of Tate's best plays for Notre Dame last year was evident this morning when he jumped high to snatch a deep pass downfield thrown by J.P. Losman. Trufant, however, was in perfect position to knock the ball out of Tate's hands as the two came down. Though the pass ultimately was incomplete, Tate's athleticism gives the Seahawks the big-play threat they've lacked since the days of Joey Galloway.

It is always tough to gauge how well rookies will be able to acclimate to the NFL based on their performances in training camp. Still, for a team desperate for an infusion of talent at so many positions, Seattle's "big three" rookies should be among those making an immediate impact in 2010.

 
Posted on: April 13, 2010 10:51 pm
 

WR Mike Williams impressive in Seattle debut

Former USC star and first round bust Mike Williams looked fit and comfortable at wide receiver in the Pete Carroll's debut practice as the new head coach of the Seattle Seahawks.

Williams was one of 17 tryout players that Carroll and general manager John Schneider brought in for the three-day mini-camp. Other notables included another famous washout receiver, Reggie Williams (no relation), formerly of the Washington Huskies and Jacksonville Jaguars, wide receiver/return specialist Kevin Robinson and veteran guard Terrance Metcalf.

Though pre-draft mini-camps rarely provide much new information helpful in draft prognostication, I have to admit I was impressed in watching Williams' strong performance today.

While it wouldn't be accurate to describe his speed off the line as explosive, the 6-4, 235 pound Williams was faster off the line than expected and showcased the strong, reliable hands that had characterized his brilliant collegiate career. Williams caught every pass I saw thrown to him (25-30 passes total), routinely snatching passes out of the air. He showed good body control in reaching low, behind and high to snag poor throws.  He also showed some vision and acceleration after the catch, weaving through the defense. Furthermore, he paid attention to his footwork as a route-runner, taking advice from veteran T.J. Houshmandzadeh, at times.

Williams was the No. 10 overall pick of the 2005 draft by the Detroit Lions. He struggled mightily acclimating to the NFL while in Detroit and fizzled quickly in Oakland and  Tennessee, as well. He saw the most time as a rookie for the Lions, catching 29 passes for 350 yards and one TD in 2005. Since, for three teams, he's only caught a combined 15 passes for 189 yards and 1 TD.

Williams is a long, long way from making the team. He'll need to be impressive this week just to be invited to training camp. It was, however, an impressive start to what could result in at least some redemption.

Posted on: January 26, 2010 12:41 pm
 

Justin Cole the replacement for Schofield

San Jose State pass rusher Justin Cole was added to the North team as an apparent replacement for former Wisconsin star O'Brien Schofield, who suffered a knee injury Monday.

Cole, given jersey #94, primarily played outside linebacker Tuesday. Cole played mostly defensive end over his career with the Spartans, but was moved to outside linebacker as a junior and flashed, earning second-team WAC honors. He struggled in 2009 to take advantage of the positive gains he made as a junior and was even benched, at one point.

Tuesday, he looked like a guy making the move from defensive end, reacting aggressively to the play-action fake and getting burned in the flat by backs releasing.

Scouts like Cole's frame (6-3, 240) and relative athleticism. He hasn't proven yet to have the instincts necessary in making the switch to linebacker, but certainly has a great opportunity this week to do so.
Posted on: January 11, 2010 8:51 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2010 8:59 pm
 

Carroll a questionable choice by Seattle



Due not only to the phenomenal success he's enjoyed with the USC Trojans, as well as the experience he gained in prior stints as the head coach in New England and New York, one could make the argument that Pete Carroll is as well qualified as any coach the Seattle Seahawks might hope to hire this off-season.

After all, he offers (along with two national championship rings) unique motivational skills, a sharp football mind, experience in high pressure games and established connections to some of the best coaches at all levels of the game. Carroll is nice. He's fun. He's the kind of guy you'd like to hang out with for a few hours and maybe play 18.

Most teams would be lucky to have him. 

However, much the same could be said about the recently fired Jim Mora, Jr.

If Mora Jr. deserved to be fired (a very debatable topic in its own right), the Seahawks would have been wise to consider replacing him with a different style of coach, one with a stricter, more disciplinarian style of going about his business.

Marty Schottenheimer, John Fox, or Arizona offensive line coach Russ Grimm might not have been the sexy pick that would result in fans renewing their seats immediately, but they'd bring back an element of toughness that this team is missing. (If a multi-million dollar, big splash hire was required, Bill Cowher would have been a fine choice, as well.)

But I digress...

I believe Pete Carroll can be successful as an NFL coach. Coaching is coaching. I don't buy that his techniques -- whether in motivation, personnel or scheme -- will cease to work just because his NFL players are older and richer.

After watching Seattle unceremoniously dump a very similar man after only one season on the job, I do question, however, if Carroll (and those hiring him) truly recognize what is missing with this franchise.

(The commentary above was first posted as part of a discussion in "The League" a conversational blog community as part of the Washington Post .)


Posted on: October 3, 2009 4:53 pm
 

Jake Locker, Jimmy Clausen good, not great so far

With unsettling performances from many of the highly ranked senior and junior quarterbacks ranked ahead of them, two passers NFL scouts have become increasingly intrigued by this year are Washington and Notre Dame juniors Jake Locker and Jimmy Clausen, respectively.

Locker's athleticism, toughness and potential as a passer have drawn comparisons to Tim Tebow. In reality, he is a further along as a passer than Tebow and has a stronger, more accurate arm with a quicker release. This fact has led some to project him as highly as a potential #1 overall candidate for the 2010 draft, should he elect to come out early.

The poise and accuracy Locker showed in the stunning upset over USC significantly increased his national attention, but scouts have been well aware of his ability for years. He remains an unfinished product, however, who too often resorts to running rather than exhausting all of his passing options.

Against Notre Dame thus far, Locker has been accurate on the short to intermediate passes, but still too often is either throwing to his first read or tucking the ball. He has the prerequisite arm strength to zip passes into tight coverage and the touch and trajectory for the deep ball. He hasn't been helped by repeated drops from UW receivers and a porous offensive line. There is no denying his first round tools. At this point, however, scouts tell me they still view him as a second round pick, as he is at least a year or more away from contributing in a pro-style offense against NFL caliber defenses.

Classen, on the other hand, is significantly further along in his development as a passer. Of course, this is to be expected after serving for three years under Charlie Weis. Classen understands the offense, making the proper adjustments at the line of scrimmage and has the accuracy to hit receivers in stride. He also spreads the ball around the field beautifully.

Like former ND star Brady Quinn, however, Classen's lack of dominant arm strength makes him a good, but not necessarily great prospect for the next level. Classen relies on his accuracy and understanding of the offense to attack, but he's attempted some dangerous passes in the first half against Washington, attempting to squeeze passes into tight holes in the secondary, such as on a 2nd quarter pass into the endzone that the Huskies should have picked off.

Their national hype may lead some to believe Locker and Classen are certain top ten prospects. In reality, while each has tools to work with -- and quite different tools at that -- both are potential gems that still require a great deal of polish...
Posted on: September 7, 2009 1:59 pm
 

Starting Stafford a huge gamble for the Lions

Lions head coach Jim Schwartz announced after practice today that #1 overall pick Matthew Stafford will be the starter over veteran Duante Culpepper for Week One against the Saints.

Schwartz, like the head coach of any team that used a first round pick on a quarterback, is in a tough spot. The financial commitment made to Stafford forces the team to consider using him, even if he isn't necessarily ready. This isn't to say that Stafford isn't. He is as physically talented as any quarterback I've scouted in the 10+ years I've been doing this. His mental toughness and poise consistently impressed me throughout his collegiate career and in the workouts leading up to the draft.

I believe, however, that the greatest single reason why there continue to be so many first round busts at quarterback is that too many rookies are thrown into the fire. I do not believe the success from Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco last season are reason enough to believe that rookie quarterbacks are suddenly more ready for the rigors of an NFL season. Atlanta and Baltimore had the luxury of strong running games and defenses to foster development of a young passer. Detroit hasn't yet shown either. The New York Jets, on the other hand, do have these factors working in the favor of Mark Sanchez. Should the Jets capitalize on their talent and the enthusiasm Rex Ryan has brought to the franchise by winning early with Sanchez, the pressure will only increase on Stafford to duplicate the success. Some will question if Sanchez shouldn't then have been the #1 pick rather than Stafford.

I believe Stafford has the tools to be a successful NFL quarterback -- someday perhaps even a Pro Bowl quarterback. And I certainly understand the impulse to start him now and allow him to develop a relationship with Calvin Johnson and the rest of the starting Lions.

But for a quarterback who completed 54.5% of his passes over the preseason with a touchdown to interception ratio of 1-4 over four preseason games, it might be too soon. 

And starting any rookie quarterback too soon is a huge gamble.   
Posted on: September 6, 2009 4:42 pm
 

Hardy Back in...

Greg Hardy has returned to the field for the Rebels after having to be helped off the field earlier due to pain in his left leg. Hardy had previously undergone multiple surgeries on his right foot.
Category: NFL
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com