When Jason Kelce arrived at training camp last July, the sixth-round pick was focused simply on making the Eagles' 53-man roster. Little did Kelce know, offensive line coach Howard Mudd envisioned the athletic Kelce as his pet project and would insert Kelce as the first-team center. Kelce proved up to the task and started all 16 games as a rookie, making him the first rookie to start all 16 games under Andy Reid since Corey Simon in 2000.
However, in the final game of the season against the Washington Redskins, Kelce suffered a foot injury that, if suffered earlier in the season, would likely have kept him out of the lineup. Originally feared to be a Lis Franc injury, Kelce's right foot was instead diagnosed as a foot sprain - good news for the center as it allowed him to avoid surgery. So while most of his teammates have been out and about enjoying their offseason, Kelce was remained in Philadelphia, plugging away at the NovaCare Complex to rehab his foot.
For now, Kelce's foot is in a protective boot and he's relying on crutches to get around, which he admitted was "annoying." But as he prepares for his first offseason as an NFL player, Kelce said that he'll be ready for the Organized Team Activities the Eagles will go through after April's draft.
"It's making good progress," Kelce said of his foot. "The doctor is saying I'll be out of the boot in a little bit and moving around again."
As for his assessment of his rookie season performance, with a month of reflection behind him, Kelce was pleased but not content with his play.
"I thought I did pretty well," he said. "The coaches are all happy with how I did. I think I made good progress as the season went on, and I think that was the key from the get-go, just to continue to improve. That's going to be my goal in upcoming years, just to keep getting better. Obviously I have a great O-line coach who can teach me everything I need to know and now it's just getting the experience and everything that comes with more years in the NFL."
According to ProFootballFocus, Kelce excelled in the screen game (which could also be seen by the naked eye), tying for the second best mark in the league. He also, of course, helped lead the way for one of the league's best running backs in LeSean McCoy. Where Kelce has the most room for improvement, though, is in the passing game.
"I can improve on a number of areas, mainly in pass protection," he said. "There are a few things I can improve upon, one of them being not being so predictable in my pass sets. Most of it's not mental anymore, most of it's technique-wise and learning different tricks of the trade as you go along."
The self-aware Kelce is certainly motivated to continue his improvement, which he expects to be accelerated once his foot is healthy.
"It should help me out a lot," he said of the offseason ahead. "Obviously there's a good strength program here and I'll be around guys who are accustomed to being professionals and working hard in the offseason. It'll be a better environment probably than I've ever experienced."