Quarterback Kevin Kolb stands in the pocket against the Giants last weekend.
When Kevin Kolb first got to Arizona, he talked about how comfortable it felt compared to living in Philadelphia – not a surprise for a guy who grew up in Texas.
Feeling comfortable living in the Cards' offense may take a little bit longer.
That's what Kurt Warner sees right now from Kolb. Warner, the former Cards' quarterback and current NFL analyst thinks a quarterback usually needs about a year to totally feel comfortable in a new system. Kolb obviously doesn't have that kind of time right now, with games counting weekly and the team trying to find a way back into the victory column.
As a result, Kolb learning on the fly has been, well, a lot like Kolb on the fly, period.
"If you are thinking, 'OK, I'm going from one to two to three' (in your progressions) and you know what's going on and you have a big picture sense of what the offense is doing, it's much easier to say, 'OK, I'm going to slide a little bit (in the pocket) because I know I'm going to throw the ball here.' " Warner said. "When you have those questions of, 'OK, that's not open and … I'm not really sure what the next move is,' then you think to yourself, 'OK, I'm just going to get out of here and make a play.' That comes down to feeling comfortable with what you are seeing.
"To me, it looks like 'This is my comfort zone right now. It's not going through my reads, it's get out on the move and we can make something happen.' "
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said similar things about Kolb's pocket presence, noting Kolb will "get more comfortable with the reads." Kolb has said consistently he doesn't think he has any more on his shoulders than most quarterbacks. It's just "different," Whisenhunt said.
It sometimes manifests itself on the field – with a lack of reps with the plays – with a lack of internal trust in what is unfolding. Because Kolb does have the athleticism to move outside the pocket, it can sometimes be his default.
"It's a combination of everything," Kolb said. "There are certain times I have to be confident and be definite where the ball needs to go. That comes with running the play over and over and over. The good ones who have been in a system for a while know as soon as the ball is snapped where the ball will go because they have seen it a lot. We don't have that advantage.
"So we have to make it work in other areas. It's a fine line. There are times I could have hung in there longer."
A couple of the sacks Kolb took against the Giants could have been helped by hanging in the pocket or quicker decisions. The final one especially – when the Cards ran a screen and the pass rushers were allowed in by design – was a killer.
Kolb dismissed quickly the idea expectations of him are too high. He also has such expectations, and clearly is frustrated at parts of his own play.
Expectations, however, don't help, Warner said. One of Kolb's issues, Warner believes, is Cam Newton. Or Andy Dalton.
"You have a veteran guy who comes in and is struggling a little bit, and I think everyone assumes, 'OK, if Cam Newton can do it as a rookie …,' " Warner said. "Not that it's apples to apples. But I think that's what you are dealing with a lot right now. That's where I think there is a little more question than you would have in a normal situation. Everyone understands the learning curve takes longer. But it's like anything else anymore – people compare it to other situations."
Of course, Kolb's numbers mirror the "success" of Newton closely – Kolb has five touchdowns and four interceptions, Newton five and five, with passing ratings of 87.0 and 84.5, respectively. Newton has thrown for a lot more yards, but has thrown a lot more passes and doesn't have the running game the Cards have shown with Beanie Wells.
Whisenhunt used a detailed example to show where Kolb is for now, and why that comfort level isn't there yet. Kolb comes to the line looking at the defensive front and considers a check to a run if necessary. He must make sure everyone is lined up right, keep an eye on the 25-second clock and remember the snap count while looking over the defense as a whole.
Then, for example, say the Cards are facing a Cover Two defensive alignment and Kolb's read should take him left. But against a certain opponent, the seam on the right side needs to be checked because the opposing linebacker leans to the weak side and opens up that seam.
"Easy for you to say, and to see," Whisenhunt said. "But to be able to process all the things (above) and still think of that one little detail (of the seam possibility) takes some reps, takes some time."
And until that happens, it can make a quarterback uncomfortable at times.