No matter who wins the battle in training camp, the Eagles will have a new starting right guard for the 2023 season opener.
It’ll be their fourth different starter in four years.
The good news is that player — likely Cam Jurgens or Tyler Steen — will be lining up between two all-time greats in Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson.
Johnson has played next to a bunch of right guards in his career so he has an idea of what he wants out of that position.
“It’s all about consistency,” Johnson said at Eagles OTAs. “I think with both these guys coming in, they’re new to the position and really it goes down to angles, it goes down to communication, a lot of it. Making sure everybody gets the call. Like Landon (Dickerson) was saying, it’s totally different guard and tackle.
“Tackle you have a lot more space to operate. Guard is you’re kind of fighting in the phone book. You also have to be strong, stout and really good balance of body control. But the communication factor is big. Just echoing all the calls and making sure everybody is on the same page.”
For several years, the right guard spot was held down by retired three-time Pro Bowler Brandon Brooks but since then, the Eagles have had a bit of a rotating cast at the position. In 2020, Nate Herbig started the season opener at the position when Brooks missed the entire year. Brooks returned to start the opener in 2021 but lasted just two games and several players filled in. Last season, Isaac Seumalo flipped from left guard to right and started every game in the season.
But Seumalo left this offseason in free agency, leaving the right guard spot open again and ensuring there will be a new starter yet again.
Jurgens, 23, was a second-round pick last year but barely played as a rookie. He was the backup center behind Kelce and didn’t start cross-training at guard in practice — a position he’s never played — until during the season. And then there’s Steen, 22, whom the Eagles drafted in the third round this year. Steen played left and right tackle in college but didn’t played guard.
One of those guys is likely going to be the Eagles’ right guard in 2023 and neither of them have played games at that spot before. But there’s still plenty of time to prepare.
“Obviously, it can be difficult to make a position switch, regardless of if you’ve played it in the past or not,” said Dickerson, the Eagles’ left guard who played multiple spots in college. “You know, what Cam’s doing, what Tyler’s doing, they’re getting put in a little bit of an unfamiliar spot, obviously. Cam’s coming in and it’s something tough.
“You got to make an adjustment. Right now is the opportune time to figure out how to kind of change how I’m stepping, where I’m aiming, where I’m looking at because those five positions are different things. For Cam and Tyler, they’re doing a phenomenal job right now.”
Jurgens lined up at right guard in the two OTA practices open to reporters this spring, making it seem like he’s the favorite to win the competition.
The Eagles list Jurgens at 6-foot-3 and 303 pounds. Earlier this spring, he said he weights around 305 but wants to bulk up to the 310-315 range for training camp. Even if he does that, he won’t be the size of Dickerson or Brooks, so he’ll need to play the position differently.
Jurgens said recently that he wants to play the position the way he plays: With athleticism, footwork and leverage.
“Obviously, players are different, they have different styles,” Johnson said. “We’re not asking Cam to be Brooks or be Isaac. Be your own guy. But I feel like within the three guys, the traits they have are super quick, athletic and that’s the guys Stout’s been looking for.”
Johnson said he’s happy with where the Eagles are at the position in the spring but knows the true test will come in training camp, especially when the pads come on.
Until then, there’s at least one reason why Jurgens’ lack of prototypical size might not be too detrimental.
“He’s so damn strong,” Johnson said. “I think he front-squatted like 550 the other day. Just having a guy that strong. The thing about him being 6-3 or whatever, I feel like he has natural leverage on some of the defenders, low center of gravity. He’s able to get under guys and obviously has that power. The more reps that he gets, the better he’s going to be. As far as explosion and athletic traits, he’s unbelievable.”
Johnson said Jurgens’ strength really shows up in the run game, when he moves defensive players on the way to the next level.
The reason the Eagles are trying Jurgens at guard is because Kelce decided to return for his 13th NFL season in 2023. The Eagles drafted Jurgnes to replace Kelce but that plan is obviously on hold for now with the All-Pro still playing at an All-Pro level.
There’s a chance that Jurgens could be the Eagles starting right guard in 2023 and slide inside to center in 2024 if Kelce finally decides to hang ‘em up.