Still a Learning Process for the Birds


So another preseason has come and gone under the Andy Reid era, but clearly there’s a new feel this time around. Not only with the new presence at quarterback in Kevin Kolb, but the overall youth movement from starter to reserve.

There are a lot of high expectations for this young team, most of it based on the overwhelming success this team has had with both Reid and Donovan McNabb at the helm. Combine it with a veteran presence on the defense with Brian Dawkins, and it makes sense the expectations for a Super Bowl haven’t dropped off, if anything they’re as high as ever.

But is that fair? Clearly this team is not as good on paper as teams in years past, not even last year. The first thing we can take away from the three games the starters played in this preseason is that Kolb is not McNabb. He doesn’t have the arm strength and has a completely different approach to the game. He’s also a better fit with this team, being the young leader the other young guys on the offense can grow with.

It’s no coincidence that guys like Todd Herremans and Winston Justice spoke highly of Kolb’s ability to relate to the young guys, something McNabb struggled with, especially in the latter part of his tenure.

But we haven’t seen it transfer onto the field yet, something this team will have to learn and learn quickly in order to compete in a tough NFC East division. Even the lowly Redskins got a major boost with McNabb and Mike Shanahan.

The offense has struggled to move the ball and score consistently, if at all. Granted I think it unrealistic to expect this team to compete for a championship this year, it’s still a reasonable expectation that this young team will be able to compete in years to come.

In order for that to happen, this offense must learn to rely on each other to execute. I’ve seen Kolb grow in practice and believe he is a quick learner; he has the confidence of his teammates, something that will help him grow. But before you know it this team could be 1-2 heading into the biggest game of the season, the return of an old teammate turned new foe.

One positive we can take away from the preseason is the defense is better than advertised. With a unit that boasts two rookie starters, in two big positions, they have looked sharp in the limited action on the field. The return of Stewart Bradley, and addition of Ernie Sims should bolster this underachieving linebacker unit from last season.

This team has even stopped the run, with the exception of a few plays around the end, better than in years past. However, and there’s always a however or a but, this team still has a ways to go.

We are still uncertain of how Mike Vick will be used. Four to five plays a game to come in and hand the ball off or run on short yardage doesn’t seem to be too convincing.

Also, Brent Celek needs to be more of a force and pass catcher in order for this team to thrive on offense. The biggest issue that jumps out at me is also something under the radar, the team’s inability to cover kickoffs. This defense is going to be at a major disadvantage stopping potent offenses; to not be able to stop kicks consistently is going to kill this team. Special teams can make or break this team, regardless of who is at quarterback.