Kolb's move, Tebow's play among preseason stories to watch

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Matt York/ Associated Press
Kevin Kolb was Arizona's prize offseason acquisition after the team struggled to find consistency at QB in 2010.


The first weekend of the preseason is upon us, and it's full of interesting matchups -- Ravens-Eagles, Broncos-Cowboys and Jets-Texans come to mind.

There are several questions teams will begin to find answers for as well. Because the lockout erased offseason workouts, coaches plan to use preseason games to accelerate the chemistry of their offensive and defensive units by giving their first-stringers more playing time to foster those relationships.

With so many things to accomplish in such a short period of time, let's take a look at several storylines that will hold our attention this weekend and throughout the preseason:

» How different will the Cardinals' offense look under Kevin Kolb? The offense went through a slight transformation following the departure of Kurt Warner a season ago, and the scheme will certainly be tweaked to fit Kolb. Given his experience and production in Philadelphia's version of the West Coast offense, it's likely Ken Whisenhunt will incorporate some of those concepts. Although those adjustments will make Kolb comfortable in the short-term, he must quickly develop an understanding of the established system and build chemistry with Larry Fitzgerald. Without minicamps and organized team activities to work out the kinks, Kolb could get a lot of work in the preseason to help the unit find its stride quickly.

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» Can Juan Castillo handle orchestrating the "Dream Team" defense? The Eagles have assembled an all-star cast of defenders, including Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins, to spearhead a Super Bowl run, but the team's new defensive coordinator must adjust to calling plays after spending the past 11 years coaching the offensive line. Getting so many new defenders on the same page is difficult under normal circumstances, it will be even tougher given the abbreviated offseason, enormous expectations and inexperience of the play-caller. With only two weeks to prepare his troops for their first game, it will be interesting to watch the debut of the Eagles' rebuilt defense.

» Is Blaine Gabbert capable of unseating David Garrard? The Jaguars were expected to bring along their quarterback of the future slowly, but an injury to Garrard gives them a chance to see how Gabbert holds up against the Patriots' complex defense. Even though Bill Belichick will likely play it close to the vest during the preseason, the trial run against New England's first-teamers will help the coaching staff assess Gabbert's progress. If he performs well, it could lead to more repetitions in the coming weeks and fuel the debate between Gabbert and Garrard.

» Will Tim Tebow play well enough to keep the QB competition open? The most talked about quarterback competition in the league has fallen in Kyle Orton's favor, but a strong performance by Tebow against the Cowboys could lead John Fox to reconsider his options. Although starring in the preseason won't necessarily guarantee Tebow a shot at the job, it could be necessary to keep Brady Quinn from supplanting him as the team's backup.

» Is Julio Jones a star in the making? The Falcons coughed up a king's ransom to trade up for Jones in the draft, and he has been the talk of training camp. His combination of size, speed and athleticism is an ideal complement to Roddy White. Jones has to show that he is capable of producing to dissuade teams from directing all of their attention to White. Jones' ability to emerge as a legitimate threat will go a long way toward establishing the Falcons as a title contender.

» How will Sean Payton use Darren Sproles? The Saints quickly grabbed Sproles after trading away Reggie Bush to the Dolphins. While Bush was often derided for his inability to run effectively between the tackles, Sproles is capable of going inside or outside. He's also a good receiver out of the backfield and a dynamic returner in the kicking game. Given his explosiveness and versatility, it will be interesting to see how Payton intends to use Sproles to create mismatches.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks

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