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Kelce Confident In O-Line Talent

Posted May 30, 2015

Following the release of Todd Herremans and the spate of injuries that hit the Eagles' offensive line in 2014, some were surprised that the team opted not to add to the position either in veteran free agency or through the NFL Draft. But Jason Kelce, who should know the group as well as anyone, believes the Eagles have plenty of talent up front to get the job done come the regular season.

"I think that we have a talented group of guards, I really do," Kelce said Thursday. "I know that Allen Barbre can play, I've seen him play for a couple years now. He's a very good player for us. Matt Tobin is a guy who I think was a little bit blue last year in getting his first starts, and his first really solid action time, but he's a guy that has all the tools that you want to be successful at guard in this league.  You've got Andrew Gardner, who played a lot and actually did a really solid job for us."

Complicating matters, of course, is the absence of Pro Bowl left guard Evan Mathis.

"That's a part of this business unfortunately," Kelce said, "you have a guy and an organization who disagree in terms of their contracts and everything like that. Evan's made this vocal for two years now, so I think that him coming up will be entirely up to him. I think that he'll be here come Training Camp but I don't know.

"So yeah, having Evan there will further solidify the line and will give us more depth, but if he's not there, which would be unfortunate with our relationship, I've known him for a long time, we have the tools to be successful regardless."

What about some of the lesser-known members of the offensive line?

"Dennis Kelly has been here for a long time, he's a very reliable player for us," Kelce said. "You've got Kevin Graf, who was very solid as a rookie. Josh Andrews, when he goes out there he gets the job done in practice. Obviously the rookies, it's too hard to tell right now, they're still young, they're still learning and we don't have pads on. Nothing we do out here right now is really going to tell that much on what it's going to be like on game day, especially in the trenches, but I think that the way some of them move and everything that we might have gotten some pretty good undrafted guys as well. We'll see how all that shakes out, but I think that with the guys we have returning, the guys that we had on the offensive line last year minus Evan and Todd, I think that we're more than set to have a great offensive line."

As Kelce said, it's too early to say whether an undrafted rookie like Cole Manhart or Brett Boyko turns out to be a diamond in the rough, but those unknown finds do seem to happen with offensive linemen more than any other position. Peters and  Tobin entered the league as undrafted free agents. Kelce and Gardner were sixth-round picks. Mathis and Barbre both played or three different teams before they emerged with the Eagles. But why is that?

"Well, I think that offensive lines, first of all, are very different from team to team," said Kelce. "A guy that might not have showcased his talents or his strengths as much in college because of the scheme he was stuck in in college, all of a sudden he gets undrafted because nobody really thinks he can play that well. He goes to a scheme that better suits his strengths and all of a sudden he's a really good player. For the offensive line position, it's not always about measurable and a lot of it comes down to the mentality of the game. It's the same reason why it's hard to predict what quarterbacks are going to be successful in the league. Whenever you're trying to assess mental ability to adapt to the game, to adapt to the offense, to adapt to the speed, all that stuff, it becomes harder to evaluate talent. The two most mental positions on the field, in my opinion, are the quarterback and the offensive line."

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