Eagles Wake-Up Call: The Center Of the Offense
Jason Kelce isn’t sure you understand. Yes, you know about the quarterback’s audibles before plays, but he’s not confident you realize the importance of the center’s pre-snap calls.
“I don’t know if the fans know, but it’s a really big part of my job,” Kelce said. “Mentally, if you’re on top of your game, the physical stuff is a lot easier.”
He explains he doesn’t want to give any secrets away, but he does reveal what he looks for in a defense before he snaps the ball. First, he reads the way the defense is aligned. Then, he reads how the defenders are spaced relative to the Eagles’ formation and play call.
“Based upon that, you can get tips on blitzes, stunts and slants,” Kelce said. “Everything I’m doing pre-snap is trying to set the blocking scheme so we have the most dangerous guys most relevant to the play blocked. The more you understand defenses and the way they align, the easier it is to do your job because you’re not just reacting, but you’re anticipating. That helps you play faster.”
That Kelce does all of this in the league’s fastest offense is why offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland called the Pro Bowler “the conductor of the whole band.”
The conductor doesn’t have to do as much, however, the faster the offensive line plays. The more up-tempo the offense is, the simpler defensive play calls are and the easier Kelce’s job gets.
“If they’re trying to disguise things, it can put them in a bind if they’re trying to do that while we’re moving fast,” he said. “When you speed up, it forces the defense to align and show what they want to do.”
Chip Kelly’s need for speed also comes with its drawbacks. Kelce notes that he’s more likely to miss blitzes when he has less time to assess the defense.
Outside of the quarterback, the center does much of the talking before the play. Although communication on the offensive line is a two-way street, Kelce’s voice is heard most often.
“Depending on the play, you may ask a guy’s opinion if he’s put in a tricky position where it’s a difficult block for him,” he said. “If some guys see something you don’t see, they’ll tell you that.”
One advantage Kelce has is that he played center, guard and offensive tackle in college at Cincinnati. That experience gives him a perspective he values as it helps him determine the difficulty of each lineman’s block.
Kelce also values his experience playing different positions growing up, from running back and linebacker to wide receiver. Although he didn’t play offensive line until he got to college, he says those experiences—in addition to playing other sports—has helped his development with the mental aspect of football.
“I did a lot of different things growing up where you start to understand space and where guys are in relation to other people and where they’re going to be,” Kelce said. “A culmination of all those experiences helps you develop as someone who understands not just football, but sports in general.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
“You just got to be smart.” DeMarco Murray on his workload.
Practice observations: Zach Ertz goes down, Jordan Matthews puts in extra work and more.
Eric Rowe’s “mind-blowing” experience, and the opportunity that’s before him.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com issues his quarterbacks report card.
Bradford had a solid day on Wednesday, but unlike his previous few practices, he didn’t stand out.
His worst throw of the day came during a seven-on-seven drill, when his pass was nearly picked off by cornerback Byron Maxwell. The ball was thrown right to Maxwell, who had both of his hands on it before dropping it.
Bradford’s best series came later during practice, when he took the first-team offense in for a touchdown, hitting Josh Huff in the back of the endzone from about 10 yards out.
Riley Cooper hopes he isn’t the cause of Kelly’s image problem, writes Les Bowen.
Last week, Kelly acknowledged the Cooper fallout could have helped create a negative perception of him, though he also said that is something he can’t waste time worrying about.
It isn’t clear that any of Cooper’s current African-American teammates perceive him or Kelly negatively.
“I treat people how they treat me,” said wideout Jordan Matthews, who came to the team last year, having heard about the incident but never having met Cooper. “When I met Riley,he was a great teammate, a great guy. I love him to death, man. I’m extremely happy he’s my teammate.”
We’ll speak to Bill Davis at 11:25 prior to practice.