Kolb, four others face daunting task of replacing big-timers

Kevin Kolb will try to step into Donovan McNabb's shoes.
Kevin Kolb will try to step into Donovan McNabb’s shoes.

It may not hold the magnitude of Babe Dahlgren taking over for Lou Gehrig after the Iron Horse’s consecutive games streak ended at 2,130, but it’s a pretty big deal in Philadelphia, bub.

Kevin Kolb is in, and Donovan McNabb is out as the Eagles quarterback. An unproven player entering his fourth season is replacing the face of a franchise who was a six-time Pro Bowl pick during his 11 seasons as Philly’s QB.

The anticipation for Kolb, who will turn 26 in August, has been building since the Eagles took him with the 37th pick in the 2007 draft. Although he’s not considered as athletic as McNabb, he has won the faith of the Eagles’ organization, which this spring traded McNabb to the NFC East rival Redskins and rewarded Kolb with a one-year extension on a contract that will now pay him a guaranteed $12.26 million over the next two years.

This will be one of the most scrutinized changes in the 2010 season. And there’s really only one way Kolb can quiet the skeptics.

"His crossover, being able to fill shoes for a guy like Donovan, that’s going to be extremely tough," Eagles fullback Leonard Weaver said. "The best thing you can do in his position in taking over for a guy who’s a living legend in a city where he’s been for 10 or more years is to make your own legend."

Here are four other "replacement" players who have big shoes to fill this season:

Panthers DE Charles Johnson (for Julius Peppers). After playing a reserve role for the last three years, Johnson is stepping in for a five-time Pro Bowl player who left for Chicago as a free agent during the offseason.

Johnson could be one of three new starters on a D-line that also lost Damione Lewis and Maake Kemoeatu in the offseason. Johnson had 10 sacks in the last two seasons. Now, he must become a consistent run stopper.

"Charles has gotten stronger and has seen what it takes to be a successful player in the NFL," Panthers coach John Fox said.

Mike Wallace takes over for Santonio Holmes.
Mike Wallace takes over for Santonio Holmes.

Steelers WR Mike Wallace (for Santonio Holmes). As a rookie last year, Wallace caught 39 passes for 756 yards and six touchdowns, and his 19.4 yards per catch average led the league.

Wallace, who primarily played behind Hines Ward last year, is faster and slightly bigger than Holmes. As a starter, he now will be challenged by better defenders, but the Steelers seem confident he can replace Holmes.

"I did see Mike Wallace live with my own eyes, and I think they really like Mike Wallace," said ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, who was at the Steelers’ training camp last year. "He is a down-the-field threat."

Giants MLB Jonathan Goff (for Antonio Pierce). Although he hasn’t claimed the starting role yet, he is first in a line that includes rookie Phillip Dillard, Gerris Wilkinson and Chase Blackburn. Goff took the majority of first-team snaps during offseason workouts.

"I saw him take command of the huddle," new defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. "I saw the guys respect him when he walked in the huddle and made a call. I thought he fundamentally did some things extremely well for us. I was pleasantly surprised. I thought he had a good knowledge of what we were trying to do and how we were trying to accomplish it, and he asked good questions. I thought he had a step up in that category over the young rookie (Dillard) and some of the younger guys."

Cardinals WR Steve Breaston (for Anquan Boldin). As Arizona’s No. 3 wideout‹and punt returner — for three years, Breaston has compiled some impressive numbers. Over the last two seasons, he has caught 132 passes for six touchdowns, and in 2008 he was one of three 1,000-yard receivers — along with Larry Fitzgerald and Boldin — for the Cardinals.

With Boldin now in Baltimore, Breaston is expected to start opposite Larry Fitzgerald. Despite the loss of Boldin, coach Ken Whisenhunt believes the wide receivers can still put up impressive numbers.

"They’ve been productive — especially Steve having over 1,000 yards two seasons ago, so we’re just seeing more of the same thing that we’re used to," Whisenhunt said during organized team activities. "That’s part of the reason why we felt comfortable enough that we could consider trading Anquan.

We felt like Steve and Early (Doucet) could step up and do that job. And I haven’t seen anything out here that would lead me to think otherwise."

Dennis Dillon is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at ddillon@sportingnews.com. Sporting News correspondent Geoff Mosher contributed to this story.

Kevin Kolb will try to step into Donovan McNabb's shoes.
Kevin Kolb will try to step into Donovan McNabb’s shoes.

It may not hold the magnitude of Babe Dahlgren taking over for Lou Gehrig after the Iron Horse’s consecutive games streak ended at 2,130, but it’s a pretty big deal in Philadelphia, bub.

Kevin Kolb is in, and Donovan McNabb is out as the Eagles quarterback. An unproven player entering his fourth season is replacing the face of a franchise who was a six-time Pro Bowl pick during his 11 seasons as Philly’s QB.

The anticipation for Kolb, who will turn 26 in August, has been building since the Eagles took him with the 37th pick in the 2007 draft. Although he’s not considered as athletic as McNabb, he has won the faith of the Eagles’ organization, which this spring traded McNabb to the NFC East rival Redskins and rewarded Kolb with a one-year extension on a contract that will now pay him a guaranteed $12.26 million over the next two years.

This will be one of the most scrutinized changes in the 2010 season. And there’s really only one way Kolb can quiet the skeptics.

"His crossover, being able to fill shoes for a guy like Donovan, that’s going to be extremely tough," Eagles fullback Leonard Weaver said. "The best thing you can do in his position in taking over for a guy who’s a living legend in a city where he’s been for 10 or more years is to make your own legend."

Here are four other "replacement" players who have big shoes to fill this season:

Panthers DE Charles Johnson (for Julius Peppers). After playing a reserve role for the last three years, Johnson is stepping in for a five-time Pro Bowl player who left for Chicago as a free agent during the offseason.

Johnson could be one of three new starters on a D-line that also lost Damione Lewis and Maake Kemoeatu in the offseason. Johnson had 10 sacks in the last two seasons. Now, he must become a consistent run stopper.

"Charles has gotten stronger and has seen what it takes to be a successful player in the NFL," Panthers coach John Fox said.

Mike Wallace takes over for Santonio Holmes.
Mike Wallace takes over for Santonio Holmes.

Steelers WR Mike Wallace (for Santonio Holmes). As a rookie last year, Wallace caught 39 passes for 756 yards and six touchdowns, and his 19.4 yards per catch average led the league.

Wallace, who primarily played behind Hines Ward last year, is faster and slightly bigger than Holmes. As a starter, he now will be challenged by better defenders, but the Steelers seem confident he can replace Holmes.

"I did see Mike Wallace live with my own eyes, and I think they really like Mike Wallace," said ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, who was at the Steelers’ training camp last year. "He is a down-the-field threat."

Giants MLB Jonathan Goff (for Antonio Pierce). Although he hasn’t claimed the starting role yet, he is first in a line that includes rookie Phillip Dillard, Gerris Wilkinson and Chase Blackburn. Goff took the majority of first-team snaps during offseason workouts.

"I saw him take command of the huddle," new defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. "I saw the guys respect him when he walked in the huddle and made a call. I thought he fundamentally did some things extremely well for us. I was pleasantly surprised. I thought he had a good knowledge of what we were trying to do and how we were trying to accomplish it, and he asked good questions. I thought he had a step up in that category over the young rookie (Dillard) and some of the younger guys."

Cardinals WR Steve Breaston (for Anquan Boldin). As Arizona’s No. 3 wideout‹and punt returner — for three years, Breaston has compiled some impressive numbers. Over the last two seasons, he has caught 132 passes for six touchdowns, and in 2008 he was one of three 1,000-yard receivers — along with Larry Fitzgerald and Boldin — for the Cardinals.

With Boldin now in Baltimore, Breaston is expected to start opposite Larry Fitzgerald. Despite the loss of Boldin, coach Ken Whisenhunt believes the wide receivers can still put up impressive numbers.

"They’ve been productive — especially Steve having over 1,000 yards two seasons ago, so we’re just seeing more of the same thing that we’re used to," Whisenhunt said during organized team activities. "That’s part of the reason why we felt comfortable enough that we could consider trading Anquan.

We felt like Steve and Early (Doucet) could step up and do that job. And I haven’t seen anything out here that would lead me to think otherwise."

Dennis Dillon is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at ddillon@sportingnews.com. Sporting News correspondent Geoff Mosher contributed to this story.

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