KELCE PLAYED A ROLE IN BIRDS SELECTING CAM JURGENS AS HIS SUCCESSOR
When the Eagles selected Alabama’s Landon Dickerson in the second round of the 2021 draft, it was with the idea that he probably would eventually replace Jason Kelce as the team’s starting center whenever Kelce decided to retire.
Because of season-ending injuries to both of the Eagles’ starting guards last year, Dickerson ended up making 14 starts as a rookie, including 13 at left guard alongside left tackle Jordan Mailata.
Mailata had a tremendous year. The 6-8, 340-pound former rugby player was the league’s third-rated tackle according to Pro Football Focus. Dickerson had some early growing pains, but by December, he and Mailata were playing very well together.
Their left-side success was impressive enough to convince general manager Howie Roseman, head coach Nick Sirianni and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland that the arrangement should be permanent.
“Going through last season and seeing Landon and Jordan next to each other, I mean that’s imposing,” Roseman said. “We felt like the chemistry that they had developed going forward and how young those guys are (Dickerson is 23 and Mailata is 25), just being able to develop that left side [was important].
“We had that on the right side when Brandon (Brooks) and Lane (Johnson) were playing together. The chemistry they developed and how powerful that side became with them. . . we felt like going forward, the right thing for us to do [was leave Dickerson at left guard].’’
Kelce, a four-time All Pro, will turn 35 in November. He considered retirement after last season but decided to come back for at least one more year.
With the plan now to keep Dickerson at guard, the Eagles put Kelce to work before the draft in helping them find a new potential replacement for him.
He watched tape of several centers in the draft, and gave Roseman his opinion of each of them. The guy who received Kelce’s most enthusiastic endorsement was Nebraska’s Cam Jurgens. Last Friday, the Eagles ended up taking Jurgens in the second round of the draft.
“Jason told us he loves the draft process,” Roseman said. “So we gave him a few guys to study, including Jurgens. We weren’t giving him a guy that we had in the seventh round and took him in the second on his say so. His evaluation was consistent with ours.
“He saw all the same things in Cam that we saw. We think he has a chance to be a very special player in this offense. He has an unbelievable opportunity to learn from the best that’s ever done it here.
“I don’t know if it’s the perfect analogy, but it’s almost like when the Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers (in 2005) and he had the opportunity to learn behind Brett Favre, and then the Packers basically had 25 years of elite play at the quarterback position.’’
That really isn’t a very good analogy because you may recall that Favre was not happy that the Packers drafted Rodgers. Felt they were trying to push him out the door. He was resentful toward Rodgers and gave him the cold shoulder early on.
There was little mentoring.
Jurgens won’t be getting a cold shoulder from Kelce, who intends to mentor the athletic 6-3, 303-pound Nebraska farm boy, so that the kid will be ready to replace him whenever he walks away.
While Kelce said the reports of his role in evaluating and drafting Jurgens were “overstated,’’ he acknowledged that “I’m pretty excited about the kid. I like his tools. I like his mentality.’’
So does everybody else in the organization.
“We felt this guy was different from the other centers who have come out the last couple of years,” Roseman said. “We think he has a chance to be really, really good. And the fact that he’s going to get an opportunity to learn from one of the best that’s ever done it, we thought that was a way for him to be even better.”
“I don’t know if there’s a better spot for offensive linemen to land than Philly and get to learn from coach Stoutland,” Jurgens said. “I feel they have a really great system that fits what I do. And getting to learn from not only coach Stoutland, but also Kelce, that’s a dude I watch and that’s what I want to emulate and be like.”
Jurgens has similar physical traits to the 6-2, 295-pound Kelce. He is an athletic center with excellent range and quickness. Jurgens ran a 4.92 forty with a 1.71 10-yard split at the pre-draft scouting combine in February. Kelce ran a 4.89 with 1.70 split when he was coming out. Jurgens has slightly longer arms than Kelce (33 3/8 to 32 ½ inches).
“His athletic ability, his explosiveness, his range, the mentality he plays with [are all impressive],” Eagles vice-president of player personnel Andy Weidl said. “Then we got to know him and got to see the leadership and the presence he had and the fit. We had a high comfort level with all of that.
“You see it on tape when you watch him get out and lead and run and work on the second level and displace people at the line of scrimmage in run-blocking. Just his mentality and the finish and all those things that we like that our offensive linemen do, we saw those things in Cam.”
If you’re looking for reasons to not like the pick, here’s a couple. When you take a guy in the second round, you usually want him to make an immediate contribution.
Unless Kelce gets hurt, however, Jurgens probably won’t get on the field much as a rookie.
That said, there really were no enticing should-have-take-him options at 51. Three wide receivers went right after Jurgens. The Eagles had addressed that position in the first round when they traded for A.J. Brown.
The other thing is that, while the Eagles believe Jurgens has the same kind of center/guard position flexibility that Dickerson has, he has never played guard in his life. Not that he won’t be able to learn, but he’s just never done it. Dickerson played guard before moving to center his last year at ‘Bama.
“We think he has good position flexibility,” Sirianni said. “Kind of similar to Landon last year as far as being able to play center and guard. Last year, Landon had a C (center) by his name, but obviously played really good for us at guard. We feel Cam can do both.” *