I’m sure you went over that headline twice before trying to make sense of it. In consideration of the most valuable Philadelphia Eagles entering the 2013 season, Jason Kelce is far from the sexy option. If you were debating team MVP choices with your friends, he would probably end up somewhere down the list, but if we take a look at last season, Kelce’s value is clear.
Kelce was drafted by the Eagles in the sixth round of the 2011 draft. Howard Mudd was coaching the line at the time and Kelce, in appearance and body type, came across in a Jeff Saturday light. It did not take long for him to see playing time, starting all 16 games for the season. The line build around his presence, and for a rookie, he made an impressive impact.
In 2012, he played two games before being lost to a knee injury. The Dallas Reynolds experiment in replacement of Kelce was a failure. The line fell apart with additional injuries to Jason Peters and Todd Herremans compounding the suffering. King Dunlap and Demetress Bell were exposed with their increased playing time and are no longer on the roster. The lack of an offensive line was a key factor to the 4-12 record.
This year, Kelce should be back to full strength. The Birds 24/7 blog reported that he will return to making the protection calls. The injured starters will all be returning to form (if Jason Peters does not face league discipline for his recent arrest) and the addition of Lane Johnson should serve to improve an already solid group.
We know that Chip Kelly’s offense will rely on adjustments made at the line before the snap. The tempo, motions, formations and reads are built off the line. Kelce’s intelligence and athleticism make him the key and, literally, the center of the offense. If he can stay healthy and anchor his unit, good things will follow as the season progresses. Kelly needs his offensive line to perform better than last year and Kelce’s presence is essential for success.