Center Jason Kelce's last two months have been a whirlwind of activity.
Drafted in the sixth round of April's draft, the 6-3 lineman wasn't able to benefit from a team-organized offseason conditioning program, minicamps or the wisdom of his new coaches for the majority of the offseason. When training camp finally kicked off, Kelce had to scramble to get up to speed.
At the start of camp, the rookie almost immediately began to rotate in with the first-team offense along with incumbent starter Jamaal Jackson. By the third preseason game, Kelce had won the starting job at the position. The former collegiate linebacker-turned-center was a player who caught the eye of new offensive line coach Howard Mudd prior to the draft. The veteran coach fell in love with the 282-pound center's quickness and rare ability to get out to the edge to block for runners.
On Sunday, Kelce notched his first regular season appearance as a pro, making all the offensive line calls and helping lead the Eagles to 236 yards on the ground in a 31-13 win over St. Louis. Kelce was pleased with his debut.
"I thought I played pretty well," Kelce said. "I had some good run-blocking plays and some good pass-blocking plays, but, I still have some stuff to work on. Overall, I was very pleased. On a couple of plays, I could have changed up our call a bit, but for the most part, we did pretty well. Most of the times when Mike (Vick) was getting hit, they were just bringing more guys than the line could handle. In those instances, he needs to get rid of the ball quickly. I thought he did a good job of that Sunday."
The Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis lived up to its reputation as one of the NFL's loudest stadiums. This Sunday, the Eagles will be in for the potentially louder Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The offensive line had some miscues early on, but Kelce believes the experience of playing in St. Louis will aid them in their upcoming matchup.
"It was a very loud environment," Kelce said. "I thought we did a good job simulating the noise in St. Louis in practice, but I was still kind of shocked at how loud it actually was. Our communication in the first quarter could have been better. As the game went on, we did a better job of all being on the same page. We will only get better from here on out."
Mudd's highly touted blocking scheme is predicated upon utilizing the speed of its offensive linemen to get outside and block downfield in the running game. That's exactly what the Eagles were able to do against the Rams in the fourth quarter to ice the game.
"As an offensive lineman you always take pride in being able to keep the other team's offense off the field," Kelce said. "It feels good to know that your team can run the ball even when your opponent knows what you're going to do."
The offensive line has its work cut out for it as they prepare for the Atlanta Falcons and their formidable front-four of Ray Edwards, Vance Walker, Jonathan Babineaux and John Abraham. If they can pass this next test with as much aplomb as they had in their first, the Eagles' decision to make Kelce get up to speed so quick will continue to look like a smart one.
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