The excitement in Kevin Kolb's voice at Arizona Cardinals training camp revealed an enthusiasm for the new offense he was learning.
The Cardinals' offense was unlike the one Kolb learned in Philadelphia. That posed challenges in the short term, but Kolb was ultimately looking forward to running a system based on different principles -- one that ultimately could let a quarterback reach another level.
Kevin Kolb: 2011 vs. 2010
In general, West Coast systems focus on running the same plays from different formations with more precision than the defense can handle. The Cardinals' system focuses more on matching route concepts to specific coverages. It's more about exploiting specific holes in a defense on a play-to-play basis. Additional chances to attack matchups come at the expense of preset rhythm for the quarterback.
"It’s a lot different here than the other places I have been," Kolb told reporters. "It’s just kind of a catalyst that drives you as a quarterback. When you aren’t spot on with it, then it causes a little bit of inaccuracy. It causes for a little hesitation, and just a few plays here and there when we are like, 'Ah, we just don’t need that.' ... It’s at the forefront of my mind."
The transition has been tougher than Kolb or the Cardinals anticipated, raising questions about whether the team has the right quarterback. Coach Ken Whisenhunt has pointed to Kolb's footwork as one of the biggest impediments to this point in the season. That issue points to the broader adjustment to a new system.
"We have a lot of route changing going on during the play," Kolb said. "I'm trying to adjust to that on the fly sometimes and I'm not used to having to do that. I'm used to coming back seven steps, hit your back foot, one hitch, boom, get it out, where here, it could be a three-step, a five-step or a seven-step on any given play depending on the look we get."
The St. Louis Rams' Sam Bradford is making a similar adjustment away from a timing-based West Coast system. At this point, the hope for Bradford and Kolb would be for the long-term payoff to more than offset short-term pain associated with the transition.
"It's something I’ve been dealing with since I got here -- it's nothing new," Kolb said. "It's just a matter of doing that when the bullets are flying and making sure those bullets don't affect you and getting out when you have to and staying in when you have to. It’s a fine line you have to walk."
It's working in some ways, but not in others. With Kolb, the Cardinals already have five pass plays of at least 40 yards, two more than they had last season. They are averaging an additional 59.7 yards per game passing, the NFL's fifth-largest jump from last season. But Kolb has as many interceptions (seven) as touchdowns, and the team is worse in the standings.
Does Kolb fit the Cardinals' scheme? The subject came to mind during our Camp Confidential piece. Kolb had this to say at the time, beginning with thoughts on how the new offense forced him to match routes to coverages:
"I like the way they put it on the quarterback to get into those concepts. As long as your quarterback can think quick on his feet, a lot of times you are going to be in the right play in the right position. It just clicks with me. ... Look at what Kurt (Warner) did. He understood it. He did it at the top level and look how successful they were. There is never a ceiling of how good you can get. It’s just however much you can handle as a quarterback. That is what is exciting for me."
There's nothing exciting about a 1-5 start or Kolb's struggles to this point in the season. He'll need to show improvement over the remaining 10 games to prove his current struggles reflect transitioning to a new offense, not his own shortcomings as a quarterback.