Most centers live in relative obscurity.
They’re not the most famous player on the team. They’re not the most famous player on the offense. Heck, how many NFL centers can you even name?
But most centers aren’t Jason Kelce.
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The Eagles’ 36-year-old folk hero has been extremely popular in Philadelphia for several years now but his celebrity status nationwide has blown up in the last year or so.
Kelce has a hit podcast with his younger brother, who happens to be dating the biggest pop star in the world. Kelce has a No. 1 single off a second Christmas album with teammates. Oh yeah, and he was named as a finalist for People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive.
How is he dealing with his newfound celebrity?
“I don’t know. It’s been a whirlwind,” Kelce said this week. “It kind of started last year with the podcast and everything and it’s continually built up more and more from the Super Bowl and my brother’s love life and People magazine. Shout out to People magazine. I think it’s continued to get more and more.
“You just kind of take it one day at a time. You just try to stay grounded with it, you try to be realistic about it and you just try to keep being the same person you are. Harder to go out. Went to the airport. That’s more difficult now than it used to be. But outside of that, I think you just try and keep doing what you’ve been doing. Obviously, something’s working.”
When the Eagles drafted Kelce with the 191st pick out of Cincinnati back in the 2011 draft, they probably thought there was a chance he would turn into a good player. But no one could have foreseen all that has come in addition to his on-field success.
As for being in the Sexiest Man Alive issue of People magazine? Yeah, his teammates have had some fun with that.
“I think most people, just a smile on their face,” Kelce said. “I think everybody is taking it a little tongue in cheek and just having fun with it. Certainly didn’t ever anticipate being up for that award. But most people have just been having fun with it.”
During the 2017 Super Bowl run, Kelce was a popular player but his fame skyrocketed when he wore the Mummers costume for the parade and delivered that epic speech. Ever since then? Folk hero.
This week, the Kelce Brothers’ duet “Fairytale of Philadelphia” from this year’s upcoming Eagles Christmas album hit No. 1 on the iTunes charts. The song is a remake of the classic “Fairytale of New York” from The Pogues, which was released in 1987.
“I think everybody thinks it’s really good,” Kelce said. “Most of the people who are really jazzed up about it are people who are familiar with the original from the Pogues. I think that song elicits a strong response from people who really like it, including myself.”
It’s just the latest addition to Kelce’s celebrity. And it probably won’t be the last.
Normally, an NFL team’s quarterback is the biggest star in a locker room. So what’s it like for Jalen Hurts to have a celebrity center?
“I don’t look at him that way,” Hurts said. “I look at him as my guy Jason Kelce. I know he’s a man of many abilities and many characters. But he’s a guy that the city loves, that this team loves. I know one thing is for sure: In anything that he does, that he gets his foot in, he always gives it 110 percent.”
Missing Dallas Goedert
While it’s certainly encouraging that the Eagles haven’t put Dallas Goedert on IR, they’re still going to be without their star tight end for at least a couple games as he heals from a broken forearm.
Goedert isn’t an easy guy to replace, but the Eagles have some experience. Goedert missed five games last season with a shoulder injury so they at least know how to go about it.
“Well, it's very similar,” offensive coordinator Brian Johnson said. “It's very similar in terms of how we get certain guys involved, how we put the guys in a position to be successful on a play-in and play-out basis, and I know the type of competitors that we have in that room, the type of competitors that we have in this building. Everybody is ready when their number is called.”
In terms of playing time, the guy who will see the biggest boost is Jack Stoll. The Eagles’ TE2 will be bumped up the depth chart, followed by Grant Calcaterra and Albert Okwuegbunam. But it’s not like this is simply going to be a 1-for-1 replacement. It’s going to be a team effort to replace Goedert.
“It will be by committee,” head coach Nick Sirianni said. “We just don't have another guy like Dallas Goedert sitting around.”
While the Eagles went 5-0 last year without Goedert, their first game without him was a 17-16 win over the Colts, which was one of the worst offensive performances of the Super Bowl season.
One of the biggest beneficiaries of the Goedert injury in 2022 was Quez Watkins, who during those four games saw 24 targets that he turned into 18 catches, 128 yards and 2 touchdowns. But Watkins is on IR with a hamstring injury right now.
While A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith are always going to be the focal point of the passing offense, those extra targets might get divvied up between Julio Jones, Olamide Zaccheaus, Stoll, D’Andre Swift and Kenny Gainwell.
“Well, we have a bunch of guys that can fill into that role,” Johnson said. “I think Nick mentioned this earlier, Dallas Goedert is an elite player, and it's going to take all of us to combine for what we're missing with Dallas, but everybody I think is eager for an opportunity to pitch in and do what we can in order to put our best foot forward offensively.”
Getting to Mahomes
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is going to go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. We already know that.
But there’s something he’s doing this season that’s truly remarkable. He’s just not getting sacked.
Through nine games this season, Mahomes has been sacked just 12 times. There are 32 quarterbacks in the NFL who have been sacked more. And it’s not like Mahomes has some incredible offensive line. It’s OK but definitely a little weaker on the edges.
So that makes you think that Mahomes is probably getting rid of the football quickly, right? Wrong. His average time to throw this season is 3.02 seconds. Here’s a list of the quarterbacks who have held the ball longer on average this season (minimum 200 drop-backs) and how many times they’ve been sacked:
Mahomes: 3.02 seconds (12 sacks)
Lamar Jackson: 3.09 seconds (27 sacks)
Deshaun Watson: 3.13 seconds (17 sacks)
Jalen Hurts: 3.14 seconds (22 sacks)
Russell Wilson: 3.16 seconds (30 sacks)
Justin Fields: 3.23 seconds (24 sacks)
So how do you coach against Mahomes’ ability to not take sacks?
“That's a great question,” Eagles defensive coordinator Sean Desai said. “The big emphasis for us is just understanding kind of the entirety of what we're going up against with this opponent—and that’s a big element, obviously 15 and 87 over there are really big elements of that. It's really about trying to disrupt his time to throw and really changing that because, like you said, he's elite at avoiding sacks.
“He really does a good job holding the ball and creating and extending plays that way and waiting for his guys to get open. That's where they're really artful. Our big emphasis is trying to understand that fact and get after them in different ways from a rush and coverage standpoint to impact his time to throw.”
Growing as a play-caller
The Eagles are coming off of their bye week, which gives the coaching staff some time for reflection and self-scouting, which Sirianni has always called a very important part of the process. This year, the bye week was a chance for new offensive coordinator Brian Johnson to reflect on the first nine games as an NFL play-caller.
Did he see improvement?
“Yeah, I think you get a little bit more comfortable just like the players,” Johnson said. “The more you do things and understanding just the different ebbs and flows of — and the different variables that come up throughout the course of the game. But for sure, anytime you do something, the more you do something, obviously the better you get at it.”
While there have been plenty of decisions to question along the way, the Eagles’ offense has overall performed very well. The Eagles are third in the NFL in points, fifth in yards and the team has an 8-1 record.
What is Johnson’s biggest takeaway from his own self-scouting?
“I think the biggest thing is each game is so independent, and then you look at each game and you get so involved in terms of what do we need to do in order to win this particular game,” he said.
“We talk a lot about this with the players of treating each play independently. I think it's no different in terms of each game as a coach. You're going to have to deploy different resources and use different strategies to win a particular game.
I think you see that show up each and every week of earlier in the season there were times where we had to run it a lot to win, and earlier in the season there were times where we threw it a lot. Just how we deploy our resources I think is really important.”
Rain, rain, go away
The forecast for Monday in Kansas City is calling for an 80% chance of rain and winds from 10-15 mph. So the Eagles have been preparing accordingly.
“Obviously, there are things that you do when it rains as an offense, as a defense, as special teams, and every rain is a little different,” Sirianni said. “If it's a downpour, you know, what's the field condition? And then you do the same thing with wind.
“There are obviously things that, just like anything we talk about, hey, coming off a bye week, whether it's a Monday night game, Sunday night game, whether it's a first game of the year, it's the same thing with rain games. You have a process that you follow.”
The Eagles don’t want to go overboard with their rain prep. Sometimes the forecast is wrong and you don’t want to spend all week preparing for something that doesn’t happen. But the Eagles have to be ready for it.
And we’ve seen them do some things at practice this week in preparation.
That was receivers coach Aaron Moorehead on Friday hitting the punt returners with spray from a water bottle.
“That's more to simulate the rain coming down and to hit the ball. The ball was already wet when we put it in the thing,” Sirianni said.
“So, it's just different creative things we've tried to do throughout the years, and you continue to try to perfect your process to do so you're ready for all conditions in the game.”