He may not have heard his name called when the Pro Bowl rosters were announced yesterday afternoon, but don’t let that take away from the fact that Jason Kelce has been having a year like no other.
Kelce is a rare breed of center. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in sheer athleticism. The 6’3, 295 pound lineman has been nothing short of prolific this season and has enjoyed his most dominant year to date. It’s been a bumpy road since being drafted in 2011. From the highs of his first and only Pro Bowl berth in 2014, to two wobbly tenures in 2015 and 2016, Kelce is back to his very best…and the very best is exactly what his offensive coordinator believes he is.
“I don’t think there’s anybody better.” Frank Reich told reporters with utter confidence. “I don’t say something like that lightly. I mean, I understand there’s a lot of great players in this league. When it comes to a center pulling, getting on the edge, doing the things that Kelce does, I think first and foremost, he has unique and rare athleticism for a player at his position, and he utilizes that.
But then, because he’s so smart and he can anticipate, he knows the front, he knows where he has to get, he knows the parts or angles he has to take, he knows the dynamics of everything that’s going on. It just makes him play faster.
He’s got the physical ability to play fast and then he’s got the mental ability to play fast. He’s playing at a very high level.”
The one area he has dramatically improved is in discipline. In 2016, Kelce was the most penalized center in the league with 8 flags thrown his way. With two games remaining this season, that number is halved. Kelce has come up against competition just as ferocious as the year prior, with linebackers like Alec Ogletree and some of the toughest and biggest defensive tackles in the league. Kelce has emerged as one of the most incredible run-blockers in the entire NFL…all you have to do is keep your eyes on #62.
This progression didn’t just happen overnight. Kelce was the only player on the Eagles roster to play in every offensive snap in 2016, shaking any concerns of durability. As the year went on the chemistry with rookie quarterback Carson Wentz continued to grow and by the end, rogue snaps had been eliminated and the improvement was clear. The relationship between Kelce and Wentz has been reported by many as such a strong factor in establishing offensive continuity and confidence and one year later, the Eagles were reaping the rewards.
2017 has been a coming out party for a center that has already had a coupe during his NFL career. All the pieces of the puzzle are fitted together and Kelce is running rampant.
“Listen, his athleticism to do that or to snake up to second-level defenders, haven’t seen too many centers do what he can do from an athletic standpoint.” Doug Pederson explained after a win over the New York Giants. “He’s having a heck of a year doing that. Even on a nicked up ankle, he’s still been able to go out there and do it in practice during the week and it’s paying off for him in the game. It’s a valuable asset to have from your center position.”
It’s shocking to think that Kelce wasn’t named to his second Pro Bowl, but this will only light an even bigger fire in the belly of the beast. Kelce has been the most consistent and valuable piece of the Eagles offensive line when it comes to paving the way for a rushing attack that averages 140 yards per game.
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Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports