Eagles Notes: Kelce named starting center

Jason Kelce will start at center this season for the Eagles.The sixth-round pick beat out veteran Jamaal Jackson.
Jason Kelce will start at center this season for the Eagles.The sixth-round pick beat out veteran Jamaal Jackson. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 30, 2011

Jamaal Jackson was right.

Jason Kelce, as expected, is the Eagles' new starting center and will be snapping the football to Michael Vick on Sept. 11 in the opener at St. Louis.

"He's our starting center," Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said when he was about the rookie on Monday.

Kelce beat out Jackson, who as of Saturday had declared the competition was over. The next question for the nine-year veteran is if he remains on the team as Kelce's backup or a utility guard.

"My whole mind-set is to come to work every day, work hard, do what I can do for this team to help this team win," said Jackson, who has 72 career starts at center but is coming off knee and triceps surgeries.

Eagles coach Andy Reid, during his radio show, was asked about Jackson's future with the team.

"Jamaal is 31 years old, and Jamaal has had a phenomenal career in the National Football League, and will continue to have a phenomenal career," Reid said on WIP-AM 610.

Kelce's meteoric rise started at the beginning of training camp when he was taking first team repetitions by the second full day of practice. He said offensive line coach Howard Mudd had told him fairly early in camp "to be ready."

"The coaches feel I'm ready and I think that I'm ready," Kelce said. "There's still room for improvement, but I'm ready to get after it."

Kelce getting the nod means the Eagles plan on going into the season with two rookies starting side by side with top pick Danny Watkins at right guard.

"I'm not as concerned as other people are," Reid said on 610. "I know we'll get it right and they'll gel."

But concern about the offensive line isn't limited to the two rookies. Reid moved longtime left guard Todd Herremans to right tackle on Saturday with the inconsistent King Dunlap not the answer - in light of the rookies to his left - and with Winston Justice and Ryan Harris injured.

Herremans has less than two weeks to get used to playing a new position - most of his limited experience at tackle was on the left - and to playing next to Watkins. Monday was the first time they practiced together in pads.

We're "just feeling out how each other plays and at the same time I'm getting used to playing right tackle," Herremans said. "So it's going to take some time but we've got some time before the opener."

The line also has to get acclimated to new left guard Evan Mathis, a free agent addition who has 22 career starts at guard in seven previous seasons. Some playing time in Thursday's preseason game at the N.Y. Jets would certainly be beneficial but Reid isn't expected to play his starters, per usual.

"I look at them every day," Reid said when asked if he needed to see Kelce and Watkins against the Jets.

The Herremans move doesn't bode well for Justice whenever he comes off the physically unable to perform list.

"I'm not really worried about that," said Justice, who is recovering from February arthroscopic knee surgery. "I'm just worried about getting better."

Harris, meanwhile, underwent surgery on Monday to correct a herniated disk in his back. A possible return date has not been set.

Smith, Maclin updates

Wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Steve Smith practiced for the third straight day, but one is closer to returning in time for the Rams than the other.

"With Jeremy, there's a good chance he'll be ready but with Steve it might take a little bit longer," Reid said.

The coach said that neither is ready to play Thursday. Maclin missed all of Lehigh camp and the first three preseason games with a virus, but returned Saturday.

Smith was taken off the Physically Unable to Perform list the same day so the Eagles expect him to be ready to play within the first six weeks. But he's only eight months removed from microfracture knee surgery and even if he does return soon isn't likely to be asked to too shoulder much.

"They might have just some selective plays for me," Smith said.

Extra points

Defensive tackles Trevor Laws and Antonio Dixon practiced in pads for the first time in weeks. Laws has been out with a hip flexor injury; Dixon with back spasms. Laws, though, is the only one of the two in jeopardy of not making team. "I think the coaches know what I can offer," said Laws, the Eagles 2008 top draft pick. . . . Defensive end Juqua Parker (calf) did not practice. Receiver Sinorice Moss left practice with a knee contusion. . . . Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo said that Jarrad Page was still the starting strong safety ahead of Nate Allen. . . . Wide receiver Gerald Jones, cornerback Jamar Wall, tackle Spencer Johnson and tight end Martell Webb were released. The roster stands at 81. The Eagles have until 4 p.m. Tuesday to get the league-mandated 80.


Eagles Notes:

PRESEASON

Eagles at Jets

Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

TV: 6ABC

Jason Kelce named new starting center for Eagles. C3.


Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745, jmclane@phillynews.com or @Jeff_McLane on Twitter.

Staff writer Jonathan Tamari contributed to this article.

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