At first, it was a little weird.
When Cam Jurgens returned to the NovaCare Complex to begin preparing for his second NFL season, his locker stall nameplate had been strategically moved into an area in the back right corner.
“It’s a huge honor,” Jurgens said. “This was Isaac’s when I got here. I was down there and now I’m here. At first, it felt weird and now it feels like home.”
Wednesday was the first day reporters were back in the locker room at the NovaCare Complex since cleanout day following the Super Bowl. If we had seen the configuration in the back right corner a few months ago, it would have ended all the talk about a right guard battle pretty quickly.
Jurgens has the fourth locker from the back wall, so he’s the starting right guard.
During the Chip Kelly Era, the Eagles locker room at the practice facility was a random jumble of players. But when Doug Pederson took over in 2016, he restored order, arranging it again by position. That has remained under Nick Sirianni.
And the five lockers in the back right corner, separated from the others by a door leading to to the Eagles players lounge, is sacred ground. Those five lockers are reserved for Jeff Stoutland’s starting five offensive linemen and they’re in order of how they line up on the field, from left to right:
Jordan Mailata, Landon Dickerson, Jason Kelce, Cam Jurgens, Lane Johnson
Last season, Seumalo assumed that spot wedged between Kelce and Johnson after it was occupied by Brandon Brooks for the previous five seasons. But after one year as the Eagles’ starting right guard, Seumalo signed with the Steelers in free agency, leaving a vacancy.
Jurgens, 24, has taken over this year at right guard on the field and in the locker room.
“Yeah, it’s kind of like our fun little area,” said Jurgens about the back corner of the locker room. “Jordy’s (Mailata) got his little banjo, he’s got a guitar. It’s just an O-line area, where we can chill. We spend a lot of time down here.”
And that time matters.
Sirianni is always stressing his core values and one of the most important ones is connection. He wants his players to be more than co-workers; he wants them to really care about one another because he thinks that pays off on the field.
Jurgens agrees with that.
“Yeah, I think it helps more than people think,” Jurgens said. “When you bond with people off the field, in the locker room, doing things, you just talk at a more efficient (level) and you just know each other. It’s easier to work with people you know.”
That process is still evolving for Jurgens as he learns to play between Kelce and Johnson, who have a combined 10 Pro Bowls and 7 All-Pro selections.
The Eagles didn’t play their starters in the preseason so all the reps Jurgens has gotten with Kelce and Johnson have come in practices this summer. Those reps, especially ones in the joint practices, are valuable. But they don’t replace real game action.
“It’s good,” Jurgens said of the communication with his linemates, “but it’s something that gets better the more you work with people. I’m excited to get more reps when you’re in the game, live reps. That’s where it’s really going to grow.”
After playing just 35 offensive snaps as a rookie, Jurgens is looking forward to taking over as a full-time starter in Year 2. When asked about his excitement level for the opener, Jurgens said he’s at a 10.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I feel like I’m still trying to attack it like I did last year. I feel like last year I really did try to pretend and fill out the week like I’m the starter. When you do become a starter, I feel like I’m just trying to do the same thing and learn as I go.”
This spring and summer was an opportunity for Jurgens to learn his new position. And Jurgens learned a lot about playing right guard from Seumalo, who was known for his cerebral approach to the game. A lot of that stemmed from his background as a center. He and Jurgens share that.
The Eagles used a second-round pick (No. 51 overall) on Jurgens last spring. They drafted him out of Nebraska to be Kelce’s eventual replacement. And, at the time, there was a popular thought that Jurgens would learn for a year under Kelce and then take over at center this season. The only problem with that plan is that Kelce had another All-Pro season and the Eagles finished just short of winning a championship. So Kelce came back.
And that’s when the Eagles decided to move Jurgens to right guard full-time. He’s not as big as Dickerson or Brooks or even Seumalo, but Jurgens is country strong, understands leverage and has elite athleticism. All the tools the Eagles liked from Jurgens at center are now being utilized at right guard.
By all accounts, Jurgens has fit in quite well at his new position all summer. And just as importantly, he’s feeling at home.
As Jurgens stepped back from his locker stall on Wednesday, on his way to a post-practice shower, he took a look back at it with a content shrug.
“It’s not too messy,” he remarked.
No, it’s not. But he also just moved in.