August 05, 2023
Ahead of training camp, there was a thought that the Eagles' starting right guard gig was up for grabs with no clear-cut choice. 2022 second-round pick Cam Jurgens was looked at as the successor to Jason Kelce at center. 2023 fourth-round pick Tyler Steen played tackle at Alabama. Even with that positional difference, it looked to be a battle between those two inexperienced players.
Six practices into camp, the battle is over. It's Jurgens' job, as the former Nebraska Cornhusker has been running with the first-team offense, settled between future Hall of Famers Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson. The fact that Steen has, of late, been getting cross-trained reps at left tackle, too, only hammers home that the Eagles are content to allow Jurgens to run away with the RG job.
"He's done well. It's all new for him," Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland said about Jurgens after Friday's practice at the NovaCare Complex. "I want to see the consistency. Again, it's very early. We're still watching. We're still coaching. We're still evaluating and I like what he's doing. I really do. I think he's doing a good job, but he's got to stay consistent and it's got to be every day."
Jurgens had a strong practice on Friday, particularly in 1-on-1 work against the Birds' much-celebrated defensive line. Jurgens was stuffing pass rushers, including one stonewalling of former All-Pro Fletcher Cox that especially stood out.
Stoutland went on to mention "swing value" as it pertains to the team's young offensive linemen, a philosophy that's been prominent during the Howie Roseman era. Isaac Seumalo was drafted in 2016 to be Kelce's successor at center, but went on to be a long-term starting guard on a Super Bowl team before departing in free agency this offseason. Landon Dickerson was thought to be another "center of the future" candidate, but is entrenched now as a Pro Bowl left guard. Steen is now getting both reps at tackle and guard and I could see him establishing himself as the Birds' best option at backup left tackle as the summer progresses and the preseason gets underway. That applies to Jurgens as well, who's been thrust into this starting role, but would likely be called upon to move to center if something happened to Kelce.
Stoutland said he's not one to "throw sugar all over the place" when it comes to praising young players, but he did draw one lofty comparison for Jurgens: three-time Pro Bowler Brandon Brooks.
"I know one thing. I know we talked about big Brooks and guys like that. One thing you don't realize with Brandon Brooks is that he's got tremendous feet. He's a great athlete. Quick foot and body quickness," Stoutland said. "Cam has that. You know he has that."
Brooks wouldn't have been my immediate comp for Jurgens. During the pre-draft process, Jurgens was looked at as a Kelce clone, clocking in at 6'3" and 302 lbs. Kelce is similarly listed at 6'3" and 295 lbs. Brooks, conversely, was a hulking presence at right guard, a mauler standing 6'5" and weighing 335 lbs. If Stoutland says that with the respect he's garnered in this organization across three different coaching regimes, however, who's to argue?
Jurgens impressed during the 2022 preseason at center, doing his best Kelce impersonation. A week away from the Eagles' preseason opener in Baltimore, his performance at right guard against the Ravens will be the thing I'll be focusing on. The battle may be won for Jurgens for now, but big challenges are on the way this fall against the likes of Aaron Donald, Dexter Lawrence, Chris Jones and more as well. We'll see if that consistency becomes a hallmark for him.
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