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The Learning Curve

Posted Dec 28, 2011

Injuries not only have limited Kolb's work, but also Cards' look at QB

Quarterback Kevin Kolb won his last start against Dallas.

By the time it’s over, Kevin Kolb will have basically played half a season.

The door hasn’t been closed on his availability for Sunday’s finale against Seattle but it is closing; the quarterback is still suffering from concussion symptoms with which he cannot play and those would have to disappear by the weekend. Should he sit, and given that he got in just three plays in his last game before getting hurt, Kolb really had just eight games.

Eight games, and whirlwind, truncated training camp on the fly. Not only did it hamper Kolb’s learning curve with the offense, it also affects how much the Cardinals could learn about their quarterback.

“I think we have a better sense than what we did when we signed him,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said.

Regardless of John Skelton’s performances this season, the Cardinals still believe in the idea of Kolb. They don’t believe Kolb’s concussion means such an injury will be a greater concern going forward, Whisenhunt said, and the chance to have him in an offseason will be cherished after the ups-and-downs of this season.

That goes for the coaches and players like wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who noted that Kolb and the offense were hurt when Kolb couldn’t be a part of training camp the first week because of lockout rules and his signing of a new contract.

Add in the reality that Kolb couldn’t even get a playbook until his trade July 28 – rookies like Cam Newton and Andy Dalton got their playbooks after the April draft and were able to start studying – and Fitzgerald said the chemistry was undercut from the beginning.

“We started off behind the eight-ball, even further than we could have,” Fitzgerald said. “Injuries set it back further. I look forward to the offseason and being able to work out with him every single day, in OTAs and minicamps, and I think that rapport will really help us.”

Kolb’s stats started well – he was 18-of-27 for 309 yards and two touchdowns in the season-opening win – but as the losses mounted, his numbers sunk. For the season, he has completed 146-of-253 passes for 1,955 yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. His passing rating was 81.0. Kolb threw for more than 300 yards just once, but he had three touchdown passes of 70 yards or more.

When he returned to the lineup after missing four games with toe and foot injuries, Kolb looked improved at standing in the pocket.

The Cards lost six of the eight games in which he played the majority, but he did win his lone second half start against Dallas when the Cardinals as a whole began playing better. That last appearance against the Cowboys is what inspires hope with Kolb.

“I don’t if it’s evaluation as much as growth in this system this offseason,” offensive coordinator Mike Miller said. “You could see him put some things together against Dallas and have a great second half.

“Every rep, even a mental rep, those things are continuing, which we knew going into it. We knew things would take time. Even the questions early in the year, when people tried to compare him to the Andy Daltons of the world … this was our situation and Kevin was new to the situation. It was going to take time, but you feel good about where he was going.”

There had been speculation raised that the Cards could cut ties with Kolb, since he is due a $7 million roster bonus in the spring, but he won’t be going anywhere. There are still parts of the offense the Cards want to explore with Kolb, Miller said, things that haven’t been because of missed practice time.

The Cards and Kolb haven’t learned yet exactly where their relationship will ultimately end up, but both side still have belief in its potential first envisioned in July.

“I feel very comfortable in the offense,” Kolb said. “You know you feel comfortable as a quarterback whenever you say a play or formation and it just pops in your head immediately. That’s what began to happen later on in the season. I’m looking forward to the next opportunity to get out there.”

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