Eagles Offense Will be the Same, but Look Different

With the Eagles’ much discussed change at quarterback from Donovan McNabb to Kevin Kolb, one of the topics of interest has been what the Birds will look like on offense.  Don’t expect Andy Reid and company to change the playbook or the playcalling, as Kolb has been around long enough to have the full playbook available.  That said, the same plays will look very different with Kolb under center.

Kevin Kolb will give the Eagles a different look on offense.


Kevin Kolb is a different type of signal caller than Donovan McNabb.  In fact, the University of Houston product is a much more prototypical West Coast offense quarterback.  Kolb is more inclined to drop back quickly, make a read and get rid of the ball.  McNabb preferred to take his time and let the routes develop longer.  That difference leads to the first of three ways Philadelphia will look like a new team offensively.

Longer Drives, Less Explosiveness

With Kolb working the short and intermediate passing game, you’ll see higher percentage plays being made for smaller chunks of yardage.  Not to say that Kolb is incapable of hitting the likes of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin deep downfield, but he won’t do it as often as McNabb.  That said, this year’s Philadelphia offense figures to be much less likely to go three and out.  Kevin Kolb completed 64% of his passes last year, while McNabb’s career mark sits at 59%.  Kolb’s shorter passes should help the Eagles improve on their time of possession, which ranked 29th last year at 28:15 per game.

More Interceptions

Donovan McNabb is one of the least intercepted quarterback per dropback in NFL history.  Number five threw just one pick every 47.46 pass attempts, trailing Neil O’Donnell by .03 pass attempts per interception.  In fact, if McNabb throws four passes without a pick to open his Redskins career, he’ll retake the top spot.

Kevin Kolb, on the other hand, has been intercepted once every 18.57 attempts through his young career.  Even if you throw out his first two seasons to account for the learning curve, Kolb has been intercepted once every 32 attempts.  So expect to see several more picks going the wrong way over the course of the 2010 season.

Not All YAC are Created Equal

While the Eagles ranked 8th in the NFL in yards after the catch last year, many of these yards were racked up on deep passing plays.  It was relatively rare to see McNabb hit a quarterback in stride over the middle of the field, leading him into open space.  That’s a scenario that will play out more often with Kolb distributing the ball.  Even if Philadelphia doesn’t see its yards after the catch number improve purely statistically, the way those yards are racked up should change significantly.

Conclusion: A Better Quarterback Isn’t Always Better

There’s no questioning that Donovan McNabb is a more talented passer than Kevin Kolb.  That said, Kolb’s style may well be more effective for Philadelphia this season.  And the effects of having fewer three and outs and sustaining more drives cannot be summed up entirely with statistics, as they even carry over to the defensive side of the ball.  Swinging the time of possession battle keeps players fresher on defense and better able to perform late in games – an area in which the Eagles struggled in 2009.  With that in mind, a lot will be learned about this Eagles team by seeing a quarterback who better fits into the offensive scheme running the show.

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Tags: Andy Reid DeSean Jackson Donovan McNabb Eagles Kevin Kolb Philadelphia Eagles West Coast Offense

  • Eugene Markman

    So are we going to see a lot more screen passes too? And what about the number os pass attempts, will Reid reel that in a bit and run it more?

  • Ryan Messick

    I don’t necessarily think you’re going to see more screen passes… But I highly doubt that Reid reduces the number of passing attempts. He certainly didn’t when Kolb played last year.

    I think you’ll see the same play-calling, but Kolb hitting the receivers quicker, before they get downfield.

  • O. Lopez

    The ironic thing is for years Philly fans cried for a more explosive offense with big play capabilty and shunned the dink and dunk offense that we had early in McNabbs career. Also the concept of a more efficient offense with slant passes and mid a mid range passing game would be great if we hadn’t already drafted WR to fit our big play explosive passing game. Neither DJac onr Maclin is built to go over the middle and make a ton of players miss to rack up YAC.

  • Adam MacDonald

    Hitting Brent Celek, Hank Baskett and McCoy/Bell out of the backfield for short passes could open up Maclin and Jackson down field.

  • Walk DMC

    Also less sacks. People make a lot out of McNabb’s ability to scramble and shake off tacklers but getting the ball out quickly is much more important. Peyton Manning rarely gets sacked. Dan Marino rarely got sacked. Kolb will get sacked less which again will translate to fewer 3 and outs and more ball possession.

  • Ryan Messick

    You can have both an explosive and efficient offense. Over the years, McNabb’s skillset didn’t fit with the “dink and dunk” style.

    Jackson and Maclin are capable of going over the middle and can be explosive when hit in stride and led into open space.

    Walk DMC also brings up a great point. Oftentimes “mobile” quarterbacks take more sacks by trying to make big plays. That said, Kolb sometimes gets rid of the ball under pressure and throws a pick when throwing it away or taking the sack would be better options. Learning that will be a big part of his development.