PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Eagles know what they have. Chip Kelly knows what he’s inherited. It’s about time the rest of the NFL find out, though most know already. Jason Kelce is going into his fourth NFL year and it’s time that the furry anchor of the Eagles’ offensive line breaks through that threshold and is recognized as one of the best centers in the NFL.
The Eagles’ 6-foot-3, 295-pound sixth-round draft pick out of Cincinnati has gradually improved with each season, save for missing 14 games in 2012 when he tore the MCL and ACL in his right against the Baltimore Ravens on September 16, 2012.
But here’s an interesting stat: The Eagles are 20-15 in games Kelce has started, including the NFC playoff game against New Orleans. With Kelce as the center piece of the offensive line, the Eagles rewrote their offensive record book in 2013.
That’s not coincidence.
This year, Kelce is on the verge of taking another step in his progression. He feels more comfortable in a leadership role, and hopefully, the rest of the NFL will take notice of his play.
“I hope so, it’s been a continual process this year where you continue to work hard and get better, and better, and better, and I feel like at this stage, physically, mentally, I’m at the best I’ve ever been,” Kelce said. “Hopefully, that will translate over into the season and I felt like I had a very good season last year. I’d be very disappointing if I didn’t improve upon that.”
It’s also reached a point where this team is Kelce’s. He’s one of the faces of the franchise. On and off the field, he’s served as a great example.
He was discovered by former Eagles’ offensive line coach Howard Mudd, who when he was under Andy Reid, said Kelce reminded him of long-time Indianapolis Colts’ center Jeff Saturday, a four-time All-Pro and 13-year NFL veteran who retired after the 2012 season.
Kelce, 26, now feels more comfortable in a vocal role.
“Once you start getting into your fourth year, and I play a position that’s very vocal and you kind of have to be a leader to be good at it, in my opinion, I really think we have great leadership across the offensive front,” Kelce said. “They make my job, and us in general being more familiar with the offense, being through one season, is going to allow to all be better.
“I’ve been with guys for three seasons now, so I think I have the amount of respect from my peers, because they see how hard I work and how I perform, and at the same token I show everyone respect, but I feel I’m in more of a leadership role than I ever have been.”
Kelce said it’s important to stay within a collective “mindset,” that he has no individual goals other than to improve every day. Let’s say one day pass blocking, on one of his steps, of hand placements, or communication.
“What’s been set in this culture is that you want to improve on something each and every day here,” Kelce said. “That enables you to not look at the end goal. Sure, it would be great to be an All Pro, be a Pro Bowl player and to win the Super Bowl, all three good goals obviously. But at the end of the day, with the way the culture is set up within the system, it’s all about how I can improve myself, the unit the team and so worth.”