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 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.
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.