NFL Draft 2022: Eagles’ Jason Kelce heartily endorses Cam Jurgens, his 2nd-round successor | Bowen (2024)

PHILADELPHIA -- Eagles fans on social media weren’t universally thrilled to see their team spend a precious second-round draft pick on center Jason Kelce’s presumed successor, Cam Jurgens from Nebraska.

Other needs sprang to mind. A starting corner. A starting safety. A starting linebacker (which the team might have added later Friday evening, in the third round, with Georgia’s Nakobe Dean.) Maybe an edge rusher, the position touted as this draft’s strongest.

Center? Kelce is still here, at least for 2022, still playing at a high level, Pro Bowl and All-Pro again last season. Also, replacing him was the rationale behind drafting Isaac Seumalo in 2016′s third round and Landon Dickerson in last year’s second round. In between, offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland cultivated 2019 undrafted free agent Nate Herbig as a potential center.

Center was such a pressing draft need?

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman made his case late Friday night for the drafting of Jurgens, and he made it emphatically, but Roseman’s standing with the fan base often seems to vary with whether or not he has done something fans wanted him to do.

There is one other man, though, who might be able to influence public opinion, a guy who thinks Jurgens represented tremendous value at 51st overall in the 2022 NFL draft. Eagles fans have a lot of respect for this fellow; their bond was cemented a little more than four years back, when he bellowed at them from the steps of the Art Museum, dressed in purple, green and gold sequins.

“He’s my favorite center prospect of the last 3-to-5 years,” Jason Kelce texted last night. “I think he can be special; I’m excited to work with him.”

The team let Kelce, preparing for his 12th Eagles season, take a role in evaluating centers in this year’s draft. Kelce met with Jurgens when the Eagles made Jurgens one of the 30 prospects they were allowed to bring to NovaCare.

“This kid offers a seamless transition, same type of player, with exceptional upside,” Kelce said. “It’s hard to explain why I think he’s so good, it comes down to how he moves and looks. He bends well, opens his hips, is very strong for his size, is an incredible athlete for his size.

“On top of that, just a great temperament, solid workhorse, lunch-pail mentality.”

They are very similar physically, except for Jurgens’ lighter coloring. Kelce is listed at 6-foot-3, 295, Jurgens at 6-3, 303. Kelce ran the Scouting Combine 40 in 4.89 in 2011, at 280 pounds. Jurgens, roughly 20 pounds heavier, ran it in 4.92 this year. Kelce came to college at Cincinnati as a linebacker; Jurgens arrived at Nebraska as a 240-pound tight end. Kelce owns some farmland and 11 cattle in Missouri, says he wants to raise “my own beef that is raised responsibly for the animal and environment;” Jurgens grew up on a cattle farm.

Is spending another second-round pick on a Kelce successor a case of the team shoving Kelce toward the door a bit?

“I’ve been shoving myself toward the door,” Kelce noted. He has made no secret of contemplating retirement, and made a social media event of announcing his intent to put off stepping down to return for 2022.

Later, when Roseman spoke, the picture became even clearer. “This is a year-to-year thing with Jason,” Roseman said, before adding that he hopes Kelce doesn’t retire soon. But to a degree, the Eagles are letting Kelce anoint his successor, and Jurgens is the chosen one.

It helps that everyone else involved in the process apparently thinks Jurgens is a premier prospect, as well.

“We think Cam’s got a chance to be a very special player in this offense,” Roseman said. “I said to (Kelce), ‘We have this unbelievable opportunity for a guy who’s really talented to learn from the best who’s ever done it here.’ ”

Roseman, like Kelce, indicated he thought Jurgens was a rare talent.

“We felt like this guy, he was different than the centers who have come out the last couple years,” Roseman said. “Everyone loved Cam Jurgens.”

Roseman said of Jurgens’ visit: “Cam comes in my office and he goes, ‘I just got to meet Jason Kelce. He’s awesome!’ And I said, ‘Yeah, he’s awesome.’ "

Player personnel vice president Andy Weidl touted Jurgens’ “explosiveness, the range, and the mentality that he played with,” along with his leadership. “All those things that we like that our offensive linemen do, we saw in Cam.”

Jurgens spoke via video call on which there was no video, for which he apologized; there was a tornado warning in Beatrice, Neb., and the internet was dodgy.

Jurgens said he had watched a lot of Kelce tape.

“To see a guy be able to move like he is, and play as hard, with as much intensity as he (does), that’s kind of how I want to play, that’s how I want to model my game. ... Just because you’re an o-lineman doesn’t mean you can’t run downfield and knock the safety off,” he said.

Why Jurgens, instead of one of the in-house Kelce succession candidates? Reading between the lines, Seumalo’s injury history has become a concern -- he’s most likely the starting right guard this year, but he’s missed 21 games over the past two seasons. Dickerson was so good as the starting left guard as a rookie, the Eagles probably want to leave him there. At 6-6, 333, he is a different type of player than Kelce (or Jurgens). Herbig seems to be in the doghouse. He recently signed his restricted free agent tender, after being allowed to venture into the market. With Roseman holding only a fifth and a seventh-round selection in Saturday’s final day of the draft, Herbig might be a chip to add a sixth or another seventh.

Unless Kelce is injured, it’s hard to see how Jurgens plays this year. He would be a really small guard. Jurgens gave no indication that not playing right away would be a problem for him. He said he is eager to learn from Stoutland and Kelce.

“I don’t know if there’s a better spot for an o-lineman than Philly,” Jurgens said.

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Les Bowen is a freelance columnist who covers the Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL for NJ Advance Media.

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NFL Draft 2022: Eagles’ Jason Kelce heartily endorses Cam Jurgens, his 2nd-round successor | Bowen (2024)
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