Kelce On the Offensive Line’s Surprising Success
The Eagles’ first-team offensive line has allowed just two sacks in the preseason, with the first coming on a naked bootleg in Pittsburgh they couldn’t have done anything about. The other was on their opening play in Indianapolis, when Nate Irving blitzed in between Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks to take Sam Bradford down for a 13-yard loss.
Irving timed his running start almost perfectly, shooting through the line of scrimmage nearly untouched while leaving Bradford nowhere to go.
“It’s a good thing Brandon actually touched him,” Kelce said, “otherwise (Irving) may have killed Sam right at the line.”
But it was also just one flaw in an otherwise impressive performance during the Eagles’ 33-23 win over the Colts.
“It’s good this happens in preseason, so now we can iron out these little things,” Kelce said. “If that’s a shotgun play, we would let that guy go and the running back can collect him. Because of the structure of the protection, that wasn’t really our guy, but because it’s under-center, we have to realize the running back can’t get there.
“Essentially, I’ve got to be more aware and I’ve got to take that guy. That’s something we corrected.”
As much as the additions of Brooks, Isaac Seumalo and Stefen Wisniewski raised expectations for the Eagles’ offensive line this season, news of Lane Johnson’s impending suspension brought them down just as much. But since Johnson has been relegated to the second-team unit, Allen Barbre has played well at right tackle, while Seumalo took a big step forward from Week 1 to Week 2 and Wisniewski impressed in Week 3.
“I thought Wis coming in played really well for us,” Bradford said. “Allen, he’s doing great. It’s not easy to play the whole offseason [and] whole training camp at guard, and then find out, ‘Hey, you’re moving to tackle.’ But he played great Saturday night.”
Still, it’s just the preseason. One potential problem the Eagles may face up front is communication because of the lack of continuity they’ve had, which wouldn’t reveal itself too much during these weeks of vanilla schemes and little game-planning. It remains to be seen who will start at left guard when Barbre moves to right tackle, as Seumalo’s pectoral injury has created an opening for Wisniewski.
“Little nuances – the double-team blocks weren’t as good as they have been before,” Kelce said. “We haven’t really had time to surface them the way we have with where we need to be at. But I think it’s coming along great. Now that we have a full week to get our legs back under us and focus on Cleveland and get ready for that game, I think it’s only going to get better from here on out.”
Kelce also acknowledged the running backs’ role in making the offensive line look good. Kelce singled out how “eye-opening” Ryan Mathews is, referencing how Mathews’ 16-yard cutback run in Indianapolis displayed his “great vision,” while Mathews’ 10-yard run against Tampa Bay displayed how tough he is by picking up six yards after contact.
“The running backs (have done) a great job,” Kelce said. “I still think we can do a better job blocking, but when Ryan Mathews is healthy, he’s one of the best in the league as far as I’m concerned in terms of speed, size, power and quickness. He’s got the entire package. Obviously, Darren Sproles has been a tremendous back in this league for a long time and then Kenjon Barner has been outstanding so far through training camp. It’s encouraging.”