Wednesday, December 7

Jason Kelce undergoes elbow procedure: Eagles’ future might not be now, but it’s coming soon | Bowen


On the face of it, the arthroscopic elbow “cleanout” Eagles center Jason Kelce underwent Tuesday shouldn’t engender mass panic amidst the fan base.

The Eagles seem to think Kelce can be back for the season opener Sept. 11 at Detroit. A medical source with experience in such matters said 4-to-6 weeks is a typical recovery time from such a procedure. If you don’t happen to have a calendar handy, the opener is 4 1/2 weeks away. Let’s not kid ourselves, the Eagles weren’t planning to toss Kelce into any preseason games, regardless. It’s possible that all Kelce’s absence does is give second-round rookie Cam Jurgens more practice reps with the first team, which would be a good thing, in the long run.

Except, there are no guarantees that Kelce’s recovery will fall toward the lower end of the estimate. The Eagles might end up starting Jurgens at Detroit, and possibly beyond. Kelce seems to be planning for his 12th season to be his final act, and we all want that to go smoothly, another year of All-Pro play and stellar leadership burnishing Kelce’s Canton credentials. This, also, is not guaranteed. Kelce turns 35 on Nov. 5, and he has thrown his hirsute, sturdy-but-undersized body into many a fray.

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It’s possible that Jurgens, who turns 23 on Aug. 21, can approximate Kelce’s athleticism. It isn’t possible that Jurgens can make up for the leadership and guile Kelce provides. Projections of another playoff berth for he Eagles, and possibly an NFC East title, are made assuming Kelce’s presence for most of the journey.

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You might recall that Jurgens was a bit of a surprise choice for the Eagles at 51st overall in the draft. This was because the team had a gaping hole at cornerback, where it hadn’t drafted a first-rounder since Lito Sheppard in 2002, or a second-rounder since Sidney Jones in 2017. Needs at safety and linebacker also seemed more pressing, since the Eagles had three possible Kelce successors already on the roster — Landon Dickerson, Isaac Seumalo, and since-released Nate Herbig, who now plays for the Jets.

But you might also recall that Kelce was given a role in evaluating center prospects this year, and he was emphatic in his endorsement of Jurgens.

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

The corner and safety situations seem to have sorted themselves out, at least for the moment, with the free-agent signings of James Bradberry and Jaquiski Tartt. Linebacker was addressed in the third round of the draft with Nakobe Dean. So, given all that, in the wake of the Kelce news, the decision to draft Jurgens certainly looks like a good one.

“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.”

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Jurgens has looked good in camp thus far. Recently he said his toughest adjustment hasn’t been physical.

“You know, it’s a lot of worrying,” Jurgens said. “I think the toughest part is seeing the defense and how well people in the NFL disguise coverages and do the things they do on defense, being able to read it. They hide things really well. But I feel like early on in practice, I felt like I belonged right away.”

Jurgens said he tries to sit next to Kelce and Seumalo in the offensive line room.

“Those are the smartest dudes in there; they’re just really cerebral in explaining and teaching everybody in the room,” Jurgens said.

It seems likely that with Kelce out for at least the preseason, Jurgens will no longer be competing with Seumalo for the starting spot at right guard; Seumalo seemed to have the upper hand there anyway.

Jurgens said practicing at guard was helping him develop a broader perspective and learn thing he might be able to apply at center, a position he called “muscle memory right now, because I’ve been doing it for so long.”

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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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