Originally posted on The Sports Headquarters  |  Last updated 4/12/13
Most know of my undying love for Kevin Kolb the player. Well undying may be a bit strong, but he was the best quarterback on the Cardinals roster for two seasons, and it was never more apparent than the last ten games of the 2012 season when the Cardinals tried and failed three times to find someone, anyone that could replicate what Kolb was doing to start the season. Now Kolb is heading to Buffalo, where he will compete for the starting job with Tavaris Jackson and likely a rookie quarterback, to be the Bills signal caller in new head coach Doug Marrone’s Frankenstein West Coast offense. Can Bills fans expect anything other than a few flashes of good, some bad and then a season ending injury? What does Kevin Kolb bring to the Bills? Let’s take a look at Kevin Kolb’s fit with the Bills. The Marrone offense I talked to BuffaloBillsDraft.com editor Matthew Elder, a great draft guy and excellent resource for all Bills and small school draft prospect questions, about the Marrone/Nate Hackett offense. He quickly linked me to his counterpart at BBD’s Anthony Macari’s article (http://www.buffalobillsdraft.com/2013/01/understading-the-marronehackett-offense/) that gave me plenty of insight into what the Bills want to do offensively. I am taking the luxury of cutting and pasting some excerpts from the article to break down how Kevin Kolb may fit in Buffalo, and if he can be the bridge to the future. “At Syracuse, two weeks before the season began, Marrone and Hackett installed a no-huddle up tempo attack that required a whole new terminology. The QB, Ryan Nassib was made responsible for reading the defense pre-snap to determine coverage’s and pressure. Like the K-Gun, the base offensive formation was 3 WRs, a single back and a TE.” As a Cardinals fan I can tell you immediately that this offensive system, the no huddle up tempo offense will absolutely play to the Kolb strengths. One of the cries of the Cardinals fan base for the entirety of the Kolb era was that they were not using the quarterback to his greatest strengths, a quick strike, up tempo offense. When Kolb was asked to slow down, survey the field, take deep drops and make throws deep in route progressions into tight windows, well he usually ended up on his back on the turf. When he wasn’t sacked he struggled to push the ball down the field and get those chunk plays that Ken Whisenhunt and company were looking for. Moving the game up tempo consistently brought out the best in Kolb, as he was playing football without thinking. He looked comfortable in getting into his drop, hitting his back foot and letting the ball fly. In his relief appearance of an injured John Skelton in the season opener versus a tough Seattle Seahawks, Kolb came in executed a nearly flawless drive, 6-8 66 yards and 1 TD. “However, the routes run were taken more from the New Orleans playbook with mostly West Coast quick timing routes. The burden was put on the QB to read the offense to decide where to go with the ball, but the receivers ran their pre-determined route without adjustment unlike the run and shoot attack used by the Bills.” Timing routes, quick timing routes, west coast timing routes, all this sounds like an offense built to succeed for Kevin Kolb. Putting the burden on Kolb to see what the defense is doing and throw to pre-determined routes that won’t be altered by what the wide receiver is seeing will absolutely play to Kolb’s strength. Kolb is what I would classify as a see it, throw it type quarterback. He doesn’t show confidence in throwing to spots, he looks comfortable throwing to open receivers.  When Kolb was throwing into tight windows in the Whisenhunt vertical attack he’d often do so with hesitation, and he was more aiming the ball than driving it to the receiver. When he was allowed to play in the up tempo offense with the reigns off he would show glimmers, enough so that people like me would say why don’t the Cardinals CHANGE their offense to fit Kolb instead of trying to fit Kolb into an offense. “When Smith was in the backfield, the Syracuse attack looked more like a Coryell offense that looked to get you to either cheat up to defend the inside run, then burn you over the top or get you to play back to defend the deep pass run by multiple receivers and then burn you with the run up the gut.” While Kolb was as much to blame as anyone else for the Cardinals offensive failures over the last two seasons, he never seemed comfortable in what he was asked to do, the Cardinals inability to run the ball never helped soften up the defense. Giving Kolb a running game with the weapons that Buffalo possesses is something that will make his job much easier, and open up the deep passing game, as opposed to the Cardinals philosophy of opening up the run game using the vertical passing game. “While varied skills are needed to run this offense, the most important skill needed is a high football IQ. Like Jim Kelly when he was running the K-Gun, plays are called on the line and the QB has a great deal of responsibility to make pre-snap reads in coverage and pressure. The ability to quickly process information is critical, both pre-snap and in play. A quick read and release will further exploit a mismatch or a burn a blitz. After football IQ, like in the west coast offense accuracy is critical on short timing routes. The third most critical skill is arm strength to stretch the defense vertically.” When Kolb was at his best in Arizona it was actually against the blitz, I know it seemed like he was always being blitzed by the amount of sacks given up but that just isn’t true. When blitzed, and a quick shout out to ProFootballFocus.com for all this info that’s available with a paid subscription, Kolb completed 54% of his passes for 8 TDs and 3 INTs.  That means for 146 of Kolb’s 436 passes thrown as an Arizona Cardinal quarterback he was blitzed, and he did fairly well. He can make quick decisions and get the ball out on time to his receivers, something that must be done in Marrone’s offense. He shows an ability to attack vertically in phases, not all the time, even if he needs to learn to put a little air under the ball still. Kolb’s likely to have competition from a rookie for the starting job in Buffalo, but for my money, this is the best situation that Kolb has been in yet. A solid offensive line, an extremely capable group of running backs, all that he’s missing is another weapon at wide receiver… I wonder what position the Bills may go after in the draft?
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