Eagles analysis

Cam Jurgens worried about filling Jason Kelce's locker, not his shoes

Cam Jurgens is ready to be the Eagles' full-time center but he's not worried about filling Jason Kelce's shoes.

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Despite overflowing clutter that took 13 seasons to accumulate, Jason Kelce’s old locker stall was finally cleaned out earlier this offseason.

A new tenant had to move in.

“I don’t know how many truckloads it took,” Cam Jurgens joked.

The back right corner of the Eagles’ locker room at NovaCare Complex is symbolic. With just five spaces after the door to the players lounge, the Eagles position their starting five offensive linemen in order from left tackle to right tackle. After Kelce retired this offseason, the Eagles moved Jurgens one spot to his left.

And that’s going to take a little getting used to.

“It does feel a little weird,” Jurgens said on Wednesday, just a few days after the Eagles reported for the start of their voluntary offseason program. 

“Kelce’s gone and they moved my locker into his so, obviously, that’s a little weird. I went to the wrong locker a couple times and I’m like, ‘Oh man, this isn’t mine anymore.’ Getting used to things. But it’s fun getting back here and getting back into the groove of things.”

Jurgens has finally moved into Kelce’s locker but he’s not trying to fill his shoes.

Even with a two-year runway, it’s probably a bit daunting for Jurgens as he prepares to replace a future Hall of Famer and one of the best players in franchise history, who also happens to be one of the most beloved players in franchise history too.

It could be a burden, but Jurgens doesn’t see it that way.

“At the end of the day, just be myself,” Jurgens said. “I’m not trying to be somebody’s replacement or somebody’s next person. I’m just trying to be myself. I’m trying to be the best football player I can be and whatever position they put me that’s what I’m going to do. 

“I’m not worried about anything else but what I can control and I think that’s all I got to worry about at the end of the day. I think when you start putting it into those perspectives and terms and people like to compare, you just put different things on your shoulders that you need to carry. And, really, what can I do today? What can I do to learn? What can I do to get better and how can I be the best football player I can be? And not how can I be what he was? What are we going to do tomorrow? That’s how I gotta look at it.”

The Eagles drafted Jurgens with the 51st overall pick in the 2022 draft out of Nebraska knowing this day was an eventuality. They didn’t exactly know when but Kelce was going to retire and after a few “pump fakes,” as Jalen Hurts called it, Kelce finally walked away from the game last month.

So now it’s Jurgens’ turn to take over as the franchise center.

That’s why they drafted him.

After what basically ended up being a redshirt season as a rookie in 2022, Jurgens took over for Isaac Seumalo, who left in free agency, at right guard for the 2023 season. Even though he was playing out of his most natural position, the experience he gained from the first 12 starts of his NFL career was extremely valuable. And it puts him in a much better position to take over as the Eagles’ center.

“Definitely,” Jurgens said. “Being able to play guard this last year and being able to be on the field, that’s going to help me more than anything. I think getting actual reps, being on the field, being next to guy. So then if I do step into that spot, whoever the guards are next to me, I can help them because I was in that spot. Getting experience. I was lucky to be here two years and every year you strive to get a little bit better. That’s what we’re looking forward to this year.”

For now, Jurgens’ old locker is being occupied by 2023 third-round pick Tyler Steen, who is the top incumbent at the right guard spot but we’ll see if next week’s draft changes the pecking order.

What isn’t really a question, though, is Jurgens’ standing. While there were some outside questions about whether or not Jurgens would take over at center, it always seemed very obvious that he would. The Eagles used a second-round pick on Jurgens to eventually replace Kelce. And they were drawn to his unique athleticism because of how similar his profile was to Kelce’s. And, heck, they even let Kelce help scout his eventual replacement and Kelce really liked Jurgens.

While at Nebraska, Jurgens had typical center responsibilities as the guy making calls up front. That will be another big part of his transition to playing the position in 2024 for the Eagles.

Over the last two years, Jurgens has been soaking up knowledge from his predecessor. Kelce was the ideal player to learn from both as a backup and a linemate.

“It’s easy to follow somebody like that and learn from that,” Jurgens said. “It’s just going to be a little different without him this year.”

Now it’s time to see him take over.

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