Philadelphia Eagles News

Center May Need Attention

One storyline that continues to fly somewhat under the radar is what the team will do at center.

Starter Jamaal Jackson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the first half of the team's week 16 win over Denver. Jackson's injury came just when the front five started to gain some consistency and develop some real chemistry. Nick Cole stepped in admirably for the regular season finale and Wild Card playoff.

Since having surgery, Jackson has been aggressively working at his rehab at the NovaCare Complex. Cole, too, has been in town getting an early jump on his off-season conditioning. And given the situation with the Collective Bargaining Agreement, it looks as if Cole will be a restricted free agent on March 5.

So what does the future hold for Jackson, the 6-foot-4, 330-pound anchor up front who had started 76 consecutive games before his injury? Typically, players returning from a torn ACL are not themselves the next season. Offensive lineman Stacy Andrews, who tore his ACL in December 2008, struggled to get on the field in his first season as an Eagle last season.

And what about the 6-foot, 350-pound Cole? Does the team see him more of a guard than center? Do the coaches believe he has what it takes to start at center for a significant period of time?

"I think the Eagles are going to have to take a hard look at this," said Sirius NFL Radio's Adam Caplan on Tuesday's Eagles Live!

Caplan said the Eagles may have had an interest in Titans offensive guard Eugene Amano, who, like Cole, also can play center. However, Tennessee struck a deal with Amano.

The ripple effect is that Titans veteran center Kevin Mawae is expected to test the free agent market.

Would the Eagles consider a 39-year-old, eight-time Pro Bowl selection as a stopgap option in the middle of their offensive line?

Head coach Andy Reid has made no secret of his love for offensive line. The area was a point of emphasis last season as the team opted for youth and allowed veteran bookend tackles Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan to move on after an historic run.

The 6-foot-4, 289-pound Mawae just finished his 16th NFL season and could serve as veteran insurance should Jackson not be able to make it all the way back.

Mawae's agent, Mark Bartelstein, told The Tennessean. "He is a Pro Bowl center still, one of the top centers in the league, and anywhere he's going to go he is going to play and be the starter. He is not ready to be a backup. He is a top line starter."

Right now, the Eagles have two other centers on their roster - Dallas Reynolds, an undrafted rookie who was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster when Jackson was hurt. Last month, the team added former Penn State center A.Q. Shipley, a seventh-round pick of the Steelers in 2009. Third-year man Mike McGlynn is also in the mix. Like Cole, he can play both guard and center.

-- Posted by Bob Kent, 1:00 p.m., February 18

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