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  • Writer's pictureBrian Baldinger


Brian Baldinger - On the Eagles

For the first time since 2010 the Philadelphia Eagles will approach the off season and the 2024 season without Jason Kelce as the starting center.

Since his first start in 2011 in the Edward Jones Dome on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi River against the St. Louis Rams, the Eagles will start the season with a center not named Kelce. He had 193 starts, most ever by an Eagle. 

I don’t think it has hit the team or the organization yet, and it certainly hasn’t hit the fan base as well.

It still seems somewhat surreal that his 45-minute goodbye speech at the NovaCare facility, where it was so emotional. 

So clever, so well thought out and so well attended that you have to wonder if it really happened

Kelce is so ingrained in the fabric of the Birds that it’s hard to imagine life without him.

He even gave us a quick tease after the Eagles signed Saquon Barkley, where he said, 

"You sure are making it difficult to walk away with this stud coming on board."

But he won’t come back. I am happy he is leaving when he is. He has three young girls that are going to keep him busy, and he needs to be healthy and active to keep up with their activities.

That gets difficult when the body absorbs the type of punishment that Kelce has absorbed over 13 seasons.

Jason Kelce had a toughness that his teammates appreciated and were drawn to. Photo by Andy Lewis

He will never tell you what Monday and Wednesdays felt like over the past few years as he tried to recuperate from a day against the likes of a Dexter Lawrence, who outweighs him by 50 pounds or more. It takes its toll.

Here is what they will miss and the void they need to fill.

Leadership for sure, and it comes in many forms. It always starts with setting an example. Being where you have to be ...ON TIME!

I will wager that Jason has never been fined for being late or for missing a trainers or doctors appointment. He will be missed in every meeting room.

I recall the Eagles preparing for a week-five matchup with the LA Rams this year.

They were in a normal Wednesday install meeting going over the Rams personnel.

They were watching the prior week's game versus the Colts. Aaron Donald destroyed the Colts offense that afternoon and the Birds were trying to figure out how they could prevent AD from wreaking the same havoc.

Players were texting me during the meeting about what they were watching...Kelce and Coach Stoutland developed a plan where Jason would literally double Donald everywhere he went once the ball was snapped.

They had never tried anything like that before. It worked. The Eagles won. Donald had minimal impact.

Kelce's skill, game planning, input, behind the scenes helped them to a victory. That insight will be missed.

On Thursdays after practice when Jason would get together with the QB's and Kelce is watching film with the group and reviewing the calls and protections to handle certain looks that teams favor.

Defensive Coordinators from around the league have told me throughout his tenure that he is the best at deciphering where the blitzes would come from and giving his QB, linemates, running backs, the heads up on where the pressure would come from...but more importantly...he would adjust the protections to help pick it up.

That will be missed and it’s something that Cam Jurgens will have to get comfortable doing.

He will be missed on game days on the sidelines when things aren’t going well and adjustments need to be made for any number of reasons..

Sometimes it’s something basic like blocking the MIKE linebacker and the scheme they practiced all week just isn’t working.

Good teams don’t wait until halftime to adjust. They fix it in real time on the sidelines before they fall too far behind.

The Philly Shove, the Tush Push might just go away. I was reminded by Coach Stoutland this season when the Philly Shove was the rave as the Eagles used it extensively to help them get off to a 10-1 record.

Years before the PUSH, Carson Wentz went 36-38 on QB sneaks over a period of years.

The common denominator was Kelce playing center and getting low with great surge to create movement for the QB to gain the necessary yard.

Maybe Jurgens can be as productive but it seems unlikely that he can be as good as Kelce.

I can wax on about the many ways that he will be missed but I believe he has left his mark on the young guys who are now the veterans. Cam Jurgens has been drafted as the heir apparent to Kelce and I think he is ready to lead in his own way.

Landon Dickerson just received a fat contract for a job well done and should be ready to step into a bigger role.

Jordan Mailata just continues to improve and now he is trying to be as consistent as you need to be to begin earning awards. Lane has been entertained by the young guys and fueled by them but he is first team all-pro every day by how he approaches the business.

Health is wealth. He takes care of himself and seldom gets beat or makes a mental error. He wants to win and reclaim hi first team all -pro status.

Jason Kelce left his mark. Others have to carry his torch. Respect isn’t given, it’s earned. League-wide Jason has earned his respect by his play on the field and his preparation during the week and how he presents himself to the media and the public.

It’s a high bar for anyone to emulate but that’s what I expect many of the young guys throughout the team will try to do.

Jason Kelce is that generational player that we all knew when we watched him week in and week out for 193 starts. The Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio awaits Kelce's bust in five years.

Most of the players in those hallowed halls were eventually replaced.

It’s the task of the organization to find and develop the kind of talent, character, and fiber that Kelce played with every Sunday for 13 wonderful years. *

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