July 10, 2023
Over the next couple of weeks (basically whenever there isn't other news to cover), we'll take a look at every player on the Philadelphia Eagles' roster, and how they fit with the team heading into training camp. Today we'll look at the interior offensive line.
Previous training camp previews
The depth chart:
|LG||Landon Dickerson||Sua Opeta||Julian Good-Jones|
|C||Jason Kelce||Brett Toth||Cameron Tom|
|RG||Cam Jurgens||Tyler Steen||Tyrese Robinson|
Kelce is the glue that holds together the best offensive line in the NFL, and he is still a uniquely skilled player athletically even at 35 years of age.
If you'll recall, Kelce had a "cleanout" surgery on his elbow and missed training camp last year, before earning first-team All-Pro honors for the fifth time in six seasons.
Kelce doesn't need training camp, and he'll likely get plenty of "old guy" days off.
Dickerson made his first Pro Bowl in 2022, starting every game for the Eagles, though occasionally coming out of some of them. The book on Dickerson early in his career is that he is a mauler in the run game, but can struggle in pass protection against quicker interior linemen. I'm not so sure I saw a lot of the latter in 2022, as he was above average in pass pro, in my opinion.
One thing Dickerson will have to clean up is his penalty count, as he led the team with 14 of them (7 for holding, 4 false starts, 3 ineligible man downfield), but he has proven to be a good player through his first two seasons, and should only get better.
In the 2016 draft, the Eagles drafted a successor for Kelce in the third round in Isaac Seumalo, a versatile offensive lineman who played four positions in college but majored as a center. He played at guard, became a good player, got a second contract in Philly, and third contract in Pittsburgh this offseason.
In the 2021 draft, the Eagles drafted another successor for Kelce in Dickerson, another versatile player who played tackle, guard and center in college. He too landed at guard, became a good player, made a Pro Bowl in 2022, and appears poised to be a guard for life.
In the 2022 draft, the Eagles once again drafted a successor for Kelce in Jurgens, a pure center with no college game experience at tackle or guard.
Jurgens had a fantastic showing in the preseason games as a rookie, putting together a slew of highlight reel blocks and using his athleticism out in space. He looked a lot like his mentor. However, Kelce stayed healthy all season, and 2022 was basically a redshirt season for Jurgens.
If he were drafted by some team in immediate need of a center, Jurgens would have almost certainly been an out-of-the-box starter. And the reality is that teams don't select centers in the first or second round of the draft and have them sit. Here's a list of every center drafted in the first or second round of the draft the last 10 years, and how many games they started as rookies:
|2022||Tyler Linderbaum, Ravens||25||17|
|2021||Landon Dickerson, Eagles||37||13 (at guard)|
|2021||Josh Myers, Packers||62||6 (Week 1 starter, injured Week 6, went on IR)|
|2021||Creed Humphrey, Chiefs||63||17|
|2020||Cesar Ruiz, Saints||24||9|
|2019||Garrett Bradbury, Vikings||18||16|
|2019||Elgton Jenkins, Packers||44||14|
|2019||Erik McCoy, Saints||48||16|
|2018||Frank Ragnow, Lions||20||16|
|2018||Billy Price, Bengals||21||10|
|2018||James Daniels, Bears||39||10|
|2017||Ethan Pocic, Seahawks||58||11|
|2016||Ryan Kelly, Colts||18||16|
|2016||Nick Martin, Texans||50||0 (injured in training camp, went on IR)|
|2015||Cameron Erving, Browns||19||4|
|2014||Weston Richburg, Giants||43||15|
|2013||Travis Frederick, Cowboys||31||16|
In March, Kelce announced that he would return to play his 13th NFL season in 2023. With Seumalo leaving in free agency, Jurgens will now compete for a starting job at RG. At OTAs, he said that he currently weighs around 305 pounds, but wants to be somewhere in between 310 and 315. Either way, he'll be undersized for the position.
He'll also have legitimate competition in the form of rookie Tyler Steen. If Jurgens can't win that camp battle, then he'll be a bench player for the Eagles for a second season whereas he would perhaps already be a good starter somewhere else.
Philosophically, the Eagles build their offensive line differently than the rest of the league, in that they like to have succession plans in place well in advance of potentially losing veteran players. And, well, they have the best offensive line in the NFL, which helped get them to two Super Bowls in the last five seasons, so it's hard to knock that strategy. But Jurgens' case could wind up being an example of the downside of that approach.
Steen was selected high in the third round (65th overall) by in the 2023, only 14 spots later than where Jurgens was picked in 2022. He played his entire college career at offensive tackle at Vanderbilt and Alabama, but the Eagles announced him as a guard, which makes sense, given his short, 32 3/4" arms. It should be no surprise by now that if the Eagles take an offensive lineman with a high pick, that guy is going to have impressive athleticism. And, well, Steen does.
Here he is protecting the blind side of the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft, Bryce Young. He's No. 54:
If Jurgens or Steen is obviously better than the other during training camp, they will start at RG. #Analysis. However, if it's close, there are arguments for both players to win the starting job.
The argument for Steen is that if all goes well, he could be the long-term answer at RG. He has a body type that is guard-ready while Jurgens is planning on changing his body in preparation of competing for that spot. For now, Jurgens is not the long-term answer at RG, as he is expected to eventually move to center whenever Kelce retires. Why not just give the job to the guy who is going to play that position over the long haul if there isn't a significant difference in their play?
The counter-argument could be that because Steen has guard-tackle versatility, he is more useful than Jurgens as a backup, especially on a Super Bowl-contending team that lost tackle depth this offseason.
Opeta began the 2022 season as the first lineman off the bench at both LG and RG, but he fell down the depth chart after some struggles, and eventually ended up on the practice squad to close the season.
After the season ended, Opeta signed a one-year deal worth $1.4 million, per his OverTheCap page.
The Eagles are a little thinner on offensive line depth in 2023 than they were in 2022, and they may need to rely on Opeta to play in some games this season.
Toth has appeared in nine games in the Eagles' regular offense over the last three years, despite being a fringe roster guy who has ping-ponged back and forth between the Eagles and Cardinals. After tearing an ACL in the meaningless Week 18 game against Dallas in 2021, he began the 2022 season on the PUP list and never appeared on the 53-man roster. Interestingly, he played center in that game, when he had previously only played tackle for the Eagles. Perhaps Jeff Stoutland sees something in him as a potential backup at multiple positions?
Toth should be healthy for 2023 training camp. For now we'll call him a backup center who would benefit from Jurgens winning the starting RG battle.
Tom was a late addition to the Eagles' roster during training camp a year ago, but he stuck on the practice squad for the entirety of the 2022 season. He was undrafted out of Southern Miss in 2017, and has been in the league for five years with the Saints and Dolphins, appearing in 13 games (1 start).
Julian Good-Jones (AKA "JGJ," no relation to "CJGJ") is a better player than his evil twin Julian Bad-Jones. He was an Eagles undrafted free agent signing back in 2020, and has since played for the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League in 2021 and 2022.
Robinson played with Jalen Hurts at Oklahoma. He signed with the Commanders as an undrafted rookie last year, and spent time on and off the Eagles' practice squad.
Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports
Add Jimmy's RSS feed to your feed reader