Ron Jaworski isn't among those assuming Seattle will get better quarterback play than Arizona during the 2012 NFL season.
The ESPN analyst has listed the Cardinals' Kevin Kolb 25th, two spots above Seattle's Matt Flynn, in his rankings for projected starting quarterbacks. Neither Kolb nor Flynn has been named the starter. Both are the highest-paid quarterbacks on their rosters. Both appear to be favorites to win the job. Which one outplays the other stands as the No. 1 variable in projecting which team will fare better during the 2012 season.
Jaworksi's thoughts on Kolb from his ongoing QB Countdown series, which aired over the weekend and will conclude July 10:
"Many forget that Kevin went through the 2010 offseason and training camp as the Eagles' starting quarterback. 2011 was not his first year as an NFL starter. And quite honestly, I was a little disappointed in Kolb last year in Arizona.
"But Kevin has always been very good recognizing pressure and coverages. He’s an intelligent quarterback who sees the field very well. It’s one reason he was efficient versus the blitz in 2011. Kolb read the blitz before the snap [during a play for which ESPN showed highlights]. He knew he did not have enough blockers. He had three to block four; the outside rusher could not be accounted for. So Kolb moved away from the pressure to give himself room and time to deliver the ball. He knew he would get hit; that was a big-time throw.
"When Kolb reads pressure and coverage correctly, he’s decisive. He looks like a quality starter. If what he expects is not there, he’s prone to sacks and turnovers. In addition, Kolb is not very good outside the pocket. He did not show the ability to effectively extend plays.
"Entering 2012, Kolb is a pocket quarterback who must sharpen and further develop his pocket skills. That’s the objective. One final point I need to make that relates to that -– Kevin missed too many open receivers. He left far too many plays on the field. I always liked Kevin Kolb as a quarterback. I know he approaches the game the right way. 2012 is his crossroads season. I would expect to see improvement. But right now, he’s in the bottom-third of my quarterback rankings."
Those criticisms match up with my perceptions and with what the numbers say. Kolb's NFL passer rating against five or more rushers was an impressive 92.5. But he took sacks on 11.2 percent of these plays, the eighth-highest rate in the NFL among quarterbacks with at least 70 attempts in these situations (Tarvaris Jackson, John Skelton and Alex Smith ranked among the five worst in this category). That high sack percentage against five-plus rushers helped explain why Kolb scored only 37.9 out of 100 in Total QBR in these situations.
Kolb's numbers were worse when opponents rushed at least one defensive back (70.7 NFL passer rating, 27.1 QBR).
Durability is a primary concern for Kolb. He suffered a concussion in the 2010 opener. He missed seven games last season. He'll need to do a better job responding to the rush. That's been a point of emphasis for the Cardinals this offseason and one I'll explore more closely later in the week.