Philadelphia Eagles might already have the next Jason Kelce

Western Michigan center Luke Juriga (59) holds up the cannon trophy after they defeated Central Michigan University on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019 at Waldo Stadium in Kalamazoo, Mich.Dsc 8112
Western Michigan center Luke Juriga (59) holds up the cannon trophy after they defeated Central Michigan University on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019 at Waldo Stadium in Kalamazoo, Mich.Dsc 8112 /

Is Luke Juriga next up at center for the Philadelphia Eagles?

It’s officially the Philadelphia Eagles offseason and fans are talking about the 2021 NFL Draft. Philly has to address a lot of holes this offseason with little cap space. They’ll have to nail the draft which hasn’t exactly been their forte in years past. While there are plenty of positions this team will look to address, one specific area of concern is the center position. Jason Kelce has considered retirement in recent years. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the three-time all-pro center were to hang up the cleats this offseason.

Kelce, Zach Ertz, and Carson Wentz spent some time on the field late after the Week 17 game likely reflecting on their careers up to this point. There’s a real possibility that all three of those players could be in different uniforms in 2021. Many believe that even if Kelce doesn’t retire that the Eagles need to draft a center in April. What if we told you they already have the answer to that problem?

Last offseason, the Eagles made Western Michigan center Luke Juriga their highest-paid undrafted free agent. In his senior season, Juriga led an offensive line that helped running back LeVante Bellamy rush for 1,472 yards and 23 touchdowns on 266 attempts in 13 games. During his four years as a starter, he was named to Second Team All-MAC in 2017 and First Team All-Mac in 2018 and 2019. In his senior year, he was named as a team captain.

While many will argue that this was against weak competition, some of the film we watched of Juriga was in his game against Syracuse, an ACC school. While that game didn’t result in a win, Juriga showed that he can compete against Power 5 schools as well.

Do the Philadelphia Eagles have Jason Kelce 2.0?

Juriga led like a true captain with his performance. When he moved to the center position in his senior year, he picked things up quickly and communicated to his teammates. Obviously, since centers can see the field better than their fellow offensive lineman, they have to make certain calls at the line.

Juriga was very aware of the defense and pre-snap and made calls to his teammates. Post-snap, he excelled at picking up stunts and blitzes in pass protection which is something that the Eagles young offensive line struggled with this year.

The 23-year-old is also very athletic like Kelce. From some of the film we watched of him, he excels at getting out into space and blocking on screen passes. This is something that Kelce has mastered in his NFL career especially under head coach Doug Pederson who has relied on the screen game in recent years. Similar to Kelce, Juriga’s athleticism shows when he is pulling as well.

Fans will remember that in the 2011 draft, Kelce fell to Round 6. Scouts believed that his size would hold him back in the NFL. He’s just six-foot-three, 295 pounds with 32.5-inch arms and 9.5-inch hands. Fast forward to 2020 and he is one of the best centers in the league. Juriga went undrafted which was largely due to his lack of size as well. He’s six-foot-four, 295 pounds with 30.6-inch arms and 9.1-inch hands. Even though Juriga displayed good hand placement, a strong lower half, and the ability to sustain blocks, teams weren’t willing to give him a chance.

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While many fans want to draft a center, the Philadelphia Eagles might already have their answer here. While Juriga isn’t the ideal size, he checks all of the other boxes. Now that he has had one year to learn under Kelce, he might be ready to step into the starting lineup in 2021. If it doesn’t happen this year, it will likely happen in 2022. 2019 undrafted free agent Nate Herbig spent one year on the bench and then ended the 2020 season as one of the team’s best pass protecting lineman. Juriga has big shoes to fill. There’s no replacing Jason Kelce. There’s plenty of reason to believe that Juriga can get the job done though.