If you’ve followed the Eagles for the past decade or so, you know that Andy Reid and Co. have been known to find the hidden gems at the center position. You don’t have to look that far back to see this: Hank Fraley was an undrafted rookie signed by the Steelers then claimed by the Eagles off waivers. Jamaal Jackson was also an undrafted rookie that was picked up in 2003. This two went on to solidify the center position in Philadelphia for almost 9 seasons. The Eagles set a team record in yards passing when Fraley was anchoring the O-Line, but went down to a shoulder injury in 2005. Jackson took over, and kept the job until he tore his ACL in the 2009 season.
Enter Nick Cole. Picked up as free agent after he went undrafted in the 2006 NFL Draft, Cole was expected to be groomed at center behind Fraley and his eventual successor Jackson. But due to injuries at the guard and tackle position Cole found himself all over the map, starting games almost everywhere on the offensive line. He became a jack of all trades for the Eagles. Many of us were confused why the Eagles have yet to sign him long term, but it’s possible the CBA has something to do with it.
At the end of the 2009 season he took over from the injured Jackson, where he seemed to struggle at times. There were severall false start penalties and he seemed to have trouble with his snapping motion, causing a few snaps to go off target. As a former lineman (obviously not a pro) I can attest to the difficulty of moving from a guard or a tackle position to center. You have to not only call out blitz and blocking assigments, but get your first step off while simultaneously snapping the ball. It’s not easy by any stretch, but it is something that gets easier with experience in game situations.
Now, if you’ve been under a rock for awhile, it’s the 2010 offseason. Jamaal Jackson is still injured and he probably won’t be ready for the beginning of the season. Cole is the front runner for the starting center spot. It’s his job to lose right now. But what if some of the bad habbits he had in the game against Denver return in 2010? What if he struggles?
There are 2 options right now. The first, who seems to be the consensus as the 2nd stringer, is Mike McGlynn. He backed up Cole at center in the two final games last season. He draws comparison to the grit and intensity of Jon Runyan (which I love to hear). He’s got some experience, and his ability to also play guard helps his cause. The second is A.Q. Shipley, formerly of the Steelers practice squad. He’s a strong, fast, and smart prospect but McGlynn will most likely win the back up spot.
Much of this center scenario has to do with how well Nick Cole will peform after an off season of knowing that theres a solid chance he’ll be snapping the ball on opening day. Personally, I believe he will succeed. But if he doesn’t, this may be the first time in many, many season where we’ve had to worry about our center. My hope is that Jamaal Jackson will have a speedy recovery, and Cole will hand the reigns back to him and help solidify the right guard position once again. Only time will tell.
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