Eagles Wake-Up Call: The Jason Kelce Lesson

I remember first seeing Jason Kelce line up with the starters last summer at Lehigh.

At the time, I wasn’t even sure Kelce was a lock to make the roster. Meanwhile, Jamaal Jackson appeared to be healthy. The veteran had 72 starts under his belt, and I didn’t even question whether or not he would be the first-team center when the Eagles opened the season against the Rams.

But I was wrong. Kelce got his chance in the preseason. Howard Mudd liked what he saw. And that was that.

Which brings us to the events of this weekend. Since Saturday, King Dunlap has been taking reps with the first team, and Demetress Bell has been lining up at left tackle with the twos. Last summer, the Eagles played musical chairs at right tackle. Winston Justice, Ryan Harris, Evan Mathis, even Fenuki Tupou lined up with the first team at various times.

So maybe the Dunlap switch doesn’t mean much. Maybe Mudd and Andy Reid are trying to light a fire under Bell. Maybe they just think Bell needs some time before he gets comfortable.

But then again, maybe not.

Either way, I know that Mudd doesn’t care about the contract Bell signed this offseason. He will find five guys he likes and go with them. He started a sixth-round rookie over an established veteran last season. And he benched first-round pick Danny Watkins in favor of journeyman Kyle DeVan.

There’s still nearly a month to go before the opener, and there’s plenty of time to decide on the starting five. But when you see Mudd shake up the depth chart, don’t rule anything out.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Let me start by saying that if you didn’t check in during the weekend, you missed quite a bit, so just head to the blog front and get caught up on all of it. Here’s a sample from Sunday:

In his weekly Linebacker Watch, T-Mac focused in on Mychal Kendricks, who had some good moments in the first preseason game.

My practice observations focus on the offense’s struggles in the red zone.

Things keep getting worse for Jaiquawn Jarrett. Tim’s got the details.

The Eagles could face a decision between keeping Phillip Hunt and Darryl Tapp when they cut the roster down to 53. I took a shot at comparing the two defensive ends.

Reid distanced himself from agent Bob LaMonte’s comments. If you’re wondering what LaMonte said, click here and here.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

If the Eagles want to return to the playoffs, they need DeSean Jackson playing at a high level, writes Clark Judge of CBSSports.com:

When the Philadelphia Eagles signed DeSean Jackson to a five-year, $51 million extension this spring, critics wondered what they were doing. Well, listen up: They were trying to remove the speed bumps that last year slowed down the star receiver.

I don’t know if it will work, but if I’m Andy Reid, I give it a shot.

The Eagles coach is under orders to put his team back on track and return it to the playoffs, and Philadelphia doesn’t make it unless Jackson becomes the impact player he was two years ago. To get there, the Eagles had to relieve Jackson of the angst that made him more of a distraction than a playmaker in 2011 … which meant they had to get him to stop thinking about a new contract.

Ashley Fox of ESPN.com writes about Reid’s return to football and the Eagles’ preseason game against the Steelers:

But life is different now, and that was evident at Lincoln Financial Field. Two hours before the game, Pittsburgh owner Dan Rooney and coach Mike Tomlin went to the Eagles locker room to pay their respects to Reid. Prior to kickoff, the Eagles paid tribute to Garrett, an assistant to the Eagles strength and conditioning staff. With his team gathered behind him, Reid stood alongside Michael Vick during a moment of silence for Garrett and twice waved his black hat at the crowd to acknowledge their applause. Throughout the game, Reid’s other two sons, Britt and Spencer, were on the sideline in Eagles gear, always near their father, always close. Tammy also was in attendance, wearing a sparkling Eagles jersey.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Eagles are down to their final two days at Lehigh. Walkthrough today at 8:15, along with a practice at 2:45. QBs, tight ends and specialists sign autographs. We’ll also hear from Marty Mornhinweg this morning.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

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