‘Brilliant’ Kelce Isn’t Going Anywhere
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - For those who believe the Eagles need to make a drastic change at the center position because Jason Kelce is off to a second consecutive slow start, you need to put some context into your plans.
Yes, the Eagles have plenty of bodies capable of playing the position, starting with veteran Stefen Wisniewski and moving on from there to options like Josh Andrews and rookie Isaac Seumalo.
However, Wisniewski is already earmarked for left guard once the Lane Johnson's suspension is finalized and Seumalo continues to deal with a strained pec that will keep him on the sideline until after the bye week in a best-case scenario. Meanwhile, Andrews is simply not proven at this level.
Furthermore, if you look around the league at the offensive line play you will find it far more offensive than what’s going on in Philadelphia right now so having a former Pro Bowl player struggle for a couple of weeks isn’t exactly the time to say the sky is falling.
More importantly, though, there are other aspects to Kelce’s game that are extremely important to the Eagles’ offense as a whole, especially with a rookie quarterback.
“I can't even begin to tell you how much of a benefit it is to Carson (Wentz) to have a guy like Jason Kelce as a center,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich gushed Thursday. “I mean, the guy is brilliant.”
That accolade was offered up after a reporter asked Reich why his rookie quarterback has been so effective against the blitz early this season, not exactly a staple of most young signal caller’s repertoires.
“(Kelce’s) absolutely brilliant in pass protection, calls and scheme and he just has this air of confidence about him that I think sets the tone for what we do in the protection world,” Reich continued.
Through two games, Kelce has been graded dead last in the NFL at his position by ProFootballFocus.com and he has clearly been the weak link in a group that has had two standouts to this point, Johnson and left guard Allen Barbre, as well as two above-average performers, left tackle Jason Peters and right guard Brandon Brooks.
Speaking about another player -- rookie cornerback -- Jalen Mills, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz dismissed some of the reliance on the way PFF views things, however.
“I'll leave the evaluation stuff (alone),” the always feisty Schwartz said. “You guys can reference Pro Football Focus for stuff like that.”
It is more than fair to say Kelce has been penalty prone early this season and has struggled with bigger, stronger defensive tackles, something that also hampered him last year.
That said, Kelce slowly improved as the 2015 season wore on and while the complete result wasn’t like his Pro Bowl effort the year prior, it was still more than acceptable.
The Eagles expect a similar trend this time around and until then, they will take solace in the intangibles Kelce brings to the offense.
"Those two are on the same page," Reich said of Wentz and his center. "Carson is extremely confident that Kelce is going to get the right things communicated up front."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen