Kelce: Isaac Seumalo Has ‘Improved Very Well’

The third-round pick took a big step forward in the Eagles' second preseason game.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

When Lane Johnson’s impending suspension was made public two weeks ago, many wondered who would replace him at right tackle. With Allen Barbre seemingly settled into the position, the focus has shifted to left guard and the battle between Isaac Seumalo and Stefen Wisniewski.

Seumalo has taken all of the first-team reps after Barbre moved over, and he’ll start once again on Saturday when the Eagles travel to play the Colts, in part because of the rookie’s play in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

“I thought I played better, for sure. Just thinking a lot less, playing faster,” Seumalo said. “When we met, [offensive line] coach [Jeff] Stoutland said I’m almost moving too much. A big thing — even Brandon Brooks told me, too — it’s all about efficiency. No wasted movement. I think I’m just doing too much. It was better than last week, but it still needs to get cleaned up.”

Seumalo took a clear step forward in the Eagles’ 17-0 win after appearing overwhelmed against Tampa Bay in the preseason opener. The third-round pick’s holding penalty against the Steelers negated a 21-yard gain, but he executed trap and combination blocks significantly better.

Seumalo also benefited from playing in between Jason Peters and Jason Kelce, who quickly became a starter in his rookie season and played in all 16 games. Similar to Seumalo, Kelce missed OTAs and minicamp in 2011 because of the lockout.

“The biggest thing I try to tell him, and what I’ve seen with guys who have handled that situation well and guys who haven’t handled it well, is you don’t want to let the situation with you thinking about the situation slow down your aggressiveness or the speed at which you play,” Kelce said. “A lot of times guys get caught up mentally about what technique they’re supposed to do and who they have and it ends up slowing them down and they’re not as effective.”

Kelce explained how over-thinking is a problem all rookie offensive linemen encounter, but the best solution is more playing time. It’s unclear when Johnson’s suspension would actually come down, and if he has any chance to win a potential appeal, but Seumalo is in line to play even more in Indianapolis, as well as in the regular season.

“When guys are freed up, when you know things in and out, when you’ve taken the reps so many times, it allows you to just play on instinct and play quicker and that’s the level we want him to get to, and he’s getting there,” Kelce said. “He’s improved very well from the first game that he was out there, from Tampa to the Steelers, when he played a lot better this game. I think we’re just looking for that constant improvement every week and we hope that will come with repetition.”

Kelce said Seumalo didn’t have any “glaring” missed assignments, adding that the 22-year-old had better feet in pass protection. Kelce noted Seumalo has to be better with his hands and not allow them to be swiped, but that Seumalo is a “very explosive player with great feet [and] great hips,” which should become more apparent when the rookie becomes more comfortable.

Kelce added that while he and the other veterans are trying to help Seumalo along, they’re cautious so they don’t overwhelm the rookie on the field.

“We try to make sure the communication is there, but at the same time, you don’t want to give him too much,” Kelce said. “You don’t want to make him [think too much] then all of a sudden he’s thinking, ‘OK, this is what Jason (Kelce) told me, this is what Stout told me, this is what JP told me,’ and now he’s thinking about four different things before the play has even gone on. You don’t want that.

“He was drafted in the third round for a reason. He’s a good player. So let him go out there and play. We can correct all those things after the game; we can correct things after a series on the sideline. Don’t try to make the situation more difficult than it has to be.”