The Philadelphia Eagles starting center since the 2011 season has been former sixth-round pick, Jason Kelce, who started immediately during his rookie season. Kelce impressed former Eagles head coach, Andy Reid, so much that he trusted the rookie with handling one of the most important spots along the offensive line.
Kelce was even better of a center during Chip Kelly’s tenure with the Eagles. Kelce achieved Pro Football Focus All-Pro honors in 2013, while getting his first and only Pro Bowl berth in 2014. Since then his play has dropped off dramatically and it’s very noticeably to say at the least.
Kelce struggled mightily in 2015. His chemistry with the interior guards next to him, Allen Barbre, Matt Tobin and Andrew Gardner, was nonexistent throughout the season. The entire Eagles offensive line, besides Lane Johnson, played terrible football in 2015, so putting the blame solely on Kelce for his play seemed to be a stretch.
Unfortunately for Kelce and the Eagles, his play is continuing to regresss and it could put his job in jeopardy.
The Eagles upgraded along the offensive line this offseason, especially the interior of the group. The team signed right guard, Brandon Brooks, to a monsterous contract, which was well deserved considering he’s one of the best right guards in the NFL. The team also signed Stefen Wisniewski and drafted Isaac Seumalo in the third-round of the 2016 NFL draft.
Wisniewski has played all but one season in the NFL as a center. Seumalo played majority of his collegiate career at center as well. The Eagles prepared themselves in case of Kelce’s regression continues, and it has so far early into the 2016 season.
Kelce has been graded the worst center in the NFL according to profootballfocus.com for his play this season. He boosted his overall grade from week one, which was 37.4, to 40.4. That is the lowest grade of any player on the Eagles offense. He’s caused unnecessary penalties, has had some horrible snaps, and has been completely manhandled at the line of scrimmage by Cleveland Browns, Danny Shelton, and Chicago Bears, Eddie Goldman, in back-to-back weeks.
Lane Johnson’s suspension is scheduled to begin immediately. The Eagles right tackle has chosen to appeal the ruling, so he’ll be able to participate this upcoming game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. After that he’ll receive either a 10-game ban or a reduced suspension.
Eagles current left guard, Allen Barbre, is slated to switch over to right tackle in Johnson’s absence. Who fills in for him at left guard has yet to be determined and probably won’t be announced by Doug Pederson until Johnson begins his suspension. Seumalo is penciled in as the team’s No. 2 left guard, but Wisniewski has lined up in that spot throughout the preseason as well.
Either Wisniewski or Seumalo will be Kelce’s eventual replacement. Many assumed Seumalo would be that after the team spent their second draft pick on him in April. Wisniewski could prove to be the quick fix solution at center, while he’s on a 1-year deal, but Seumalo could be the team’s long-term solution at center.
Carson Wentz’s center for workouts in North Dakota when team’s came to watch him practice was Seumalo. The two had chemistry well before they were drafted by the Eagles, which could’ve ultimately played a factor in the team’s decision to select Seumalo also.
The Eagles can free up $3.8 million in cap space this offseason releasing Kelce. With his play continuing to regress, even though it’s still early into the 2016 season, that appears to be inevitable. Kelce’s play has been noticeably bad that it’s starting to bring his job security to question. Pederson still has faith in the veteran center, but with his prized quarterback behind him, that faith may waver sooner rather than later.