Nov 17, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce (62) lines up during the fourth quarter against the Washington Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles defeated the Redskins 24-16. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Center Jason Kelce is one of the unsung heroes of the Eagles offense and of the Eagles team overall. Discovered late in the 2011 draft in the sixth round by then offensive line coach Howard Mudd, the young center from the University of Cincinnati was frequently compared to nearly legendary Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday. Not only were the two mentored by the same Howard Mudd, they were nearly identical in size, both standing at 6’2″ and playing at 295 pounds. Many consider this size to be lacking for a starting NFL center, but Mudd valued athleticism, and Kelce delivers that hands down.
Absent for the last part of the 2012 season due to a knee injury, Kelce established himself as a premier center once more in 2013 in spearheading the offensive line for Chip Kelly’s fast paced offense.
Kelce will be squaring off against either Josh “Chappy” Chapman, a 2012 fifth round selection out of the University of Alabama or Montori Hughes, a 2013 fifth round draft selection from the University of Tennesee-Martin. In the first game, Chapman was tapped for the nose tackle role, and he ended the game with one tackle. The defense did handle the run well in that Denver game, holding the Broncos to merely 102 yards rushing on 32 carries, and surrendering one touchdown on the ground.
But Denver’s offense will not be known for it’s running game as long as they have quarterback Peyton Manning. Fortunately, the Eagles offense is known for its running game. With a two prong attack from both running back LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles, the Colts defense will be tested heavily on how it can manage to stop the run. In Chapman’s first year, teams averaged 4.6 yards rushing on the first down against the Colts. The Colts parted ways with their 2013 starting nose tackle Aubreyo Franklin, partly due to the poor rushing defense and the fact that at age 33, they felt it necessary to move to younger options.
But part of that decision was predicated on the assumption that “Chappy” would make significant progress. While the Colts rush defense did improve against Denver, look for the Eagles to take advantage of the middle of the Colts youthful defense with interior runs. If the Eagles discover that to be the soft underbelly of the Colts defense, they will have a strong chance to win this game.