With just two-and-a-half weeks to go before the Eagles kick off their regular season in St. Louis, some question marks remain along the offensive line. Tackle Jason Peters and guard Todd Herremans have solidified the left side, but it is possible that come September 11 there will be new starters at each of the other three offensive line positions.
At right tackle, Winston Justice remains sidelined following offseason knee surgery, creating an opportunity for King Dunlap to run with the starters in his absence. At right guard, rookie first-round pick Danny Watkins has impressed early and looks to have a stronghold on the job. Eight-year veteran Jamaal Jackson and rookie Jason Kelce have been splitting first-team reps at center. Kelce will get the opportunity to start Thursday night against Cleveland. Beyond that, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said that "no decision has been made" when it comes to the center job.
"There is great competition there. Kelce has sort of earned the opportunity to do this for a period of time," Mornhinweg said. "Both are playing at a very high level right now and both are very different. You have a veteran with some great experience that is playing very well, and then you have a rookie that shows an awful lot of talent."
The two men bring a vastly different set of skills to the table. The 6-3 rookie from Cincinnati is over 40 pounds lighter than Jackson, and is known for his ability to get up field quickly on screen passes and running plays and block in space, whereas the former undrafted free agent with whom he is competing is known for his ability to control the line of scrimmage with his size and strength. Mornhinweg doesn't believe that experience will play a significant role in determining who has the ability to start under offensive line coach Howard Mudd.
"We're looking for the five best players," explained Mornhinweg. "That's the goal. And really, you're looking at the seven, eight, nine best players and how you would play them in different scenarios depending on if somebody got nicked. You have to allow an opportunity for a player to see in many cases what that player can do. Kelce has earned that opportunity."
The sixth-round selection knows the pressure is on, and he is taking a humble approach. While he would love to be the opening day starter, he isn't taking anything for granted, including a spot on the 53-man roster.
"I can definitely lose my opportunity to be on the team if I don't have a good outing in this upcoming game," said Kelce following the final team practice before Thursday's matchup with the Browns. "I'm just looking at this as an opportunity to get better and show what I can do."
Kelce will have the opportunity to start against the Cleveland Browns this Thursday night. If he impresses the coaches he could find himself not just on the final 53-man roster, but as the starter at center come September 11.
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