Pederson On Kelce’s Step Back, the Offensive Line

Doug Pederson explained how the Brandon Brooks signing will help Jason Kelce.

Jason Kelce. (Jeff Fusco)

Jason Kelce. (Jeff Fusco)

Throughout last season, several theories floated around about why Jason Kelce took a step back from his previous Pro Bowl-caliber seasons.

Perhaps an injury was holding him back, or maybe he just benefited from battling defenses in those first two Chip Kelly years that struggled to adjust to the Eagles’ scheme and tempo.

Doug Pederson, however, subscribes to a different theory.

“As you saw with the free agency [signing] that we did, [guard] was an area of need for us because of the things Jason was exposed to up front,” Pederson said yesterday at the owners meetings. “We just feel like he’s going to have a great year with two solid guys next to him.”

Pederson described what he saw on film, including how Kelce over-ran some blocks and may have over-thought things. The head coach also explained that “there were times [Kelce] was left on an island,” and that different depth levels between offensive linemen opened up space and gaps for defenders to pressure Sam Bradford.

Although Kelce struggled on his own at times, it didn’t help him to have Allen Barbre and Matt Tobin next to him. Tobin ranked 76th out of 82 NFL guards in Pro Football Focus’s pass blocking efficiency metric, allowing eight sacks, 11 quarterback hits and 31 hurries. The Eagles signed Brandon Brooks on the first day of free agency to upgrade the right guard position.

“The addition of Brandon Brooks will help keep [Kelce] more solidified in the middle,” Pederson said. “He’s that guy that fits that mold of working with that center. Houston did a great job of zone schemes as well and combo blocks, things like that. He’s good at that. He’s a road grader in there. That’s something that will be a little more of a comfort for Jason Kelce.”

Pederson also said the Eagles need to add more offensive linemen, which is something they’ll likely do in the draft. According to ESPN’s Scouts Inc., five offensive linemen — all tackles — rank among the top-30 overall prospects.

It seems very unlikely that Mississippi’s Laremy Tunsil will fall to the Eagles at No. 8 overall, but Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley (No. 2 OL, No. 6 overall) and Michigan State’s Jack Conklin (No. 3 OL, No. 11 overall) may be available. Stanford’s Joshua Garnett (No. 1 guard, No. 55 overall), Kansas State’s Cody Whitehair (No. 2 guard, No. 89 overall) and Arizona State’s Christian Westerman (No. 3 guard, No. 104 overall) could also be options after the first round.

Pederson explained what he’s looking for in offensive line prospects.

“You want guys that can think on their feet, No. 1. You want guys who are athletic. You want guys who have that nasty, dirty grit to them, that no matter what happens during the course of a game or a season, they’re going to take control, they’re going to take charge,” Pederson said. “Guys that are versatile, guys that can play multiple spots. But to me, you want those dirty guys, those nasty guys. I’m not saying they’re cheap shot guys, but there’s a demeanor about ’em, that they’re aggressive when they step on the field.”

Pederson also addressed the NFL’s new ban on chop blocks, saying it will “affect the way we teach as coaches.” He described it as a “nasty” block that can “hurt,” and seemed to approve of the new policy. He also discussed whether Jason Peters may transition from tackle to guard.

“There’s been talk about that, but in my opinion, I think he can still play left tackle,” Pederson said. “He’s solid out there, got a lot of athleticism out there. I think that’s his best spot for now. As he continues each year, is it possible he could move inside? That’s yet to be seen.”