With Jason Kelce's approval, Eagles excited to select successor in Nebraska's Cam Jurgens

The Eagles had to send Jason Kelce kegs of beer to convince him to return for the 2022 season, so it was high time to find his long-term replacement.

Philadelphia general manager Howie Roseman did just that when he spent the 51st overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft on Nebraska center Cam Jurgens. Some may have expected Kelce to be upset by this selection, but the 34-year-old center saw it coming all along.

In fact, Kelce handpicked Jurgens to succeed him.

"I knew we were taking him," Kelce said during an appearance on Bleacher Report's live draft coverage Friday night. "So, this is my favorite player in the draft. I'm not just saying that because we picked him. The Eagles have been using me to evaluate some of the centers coming out, and of all the guys that I've looked at like for the past two to three years, out of all the guys that compare the most to myself, this guy is him.

"I mean, he is so athletic, so fast, you see him out in space. He runs. He's a natural athlete. You see the fluidity. He played tight end, a position convert. He's only been playing offensive line for two years. ... This guy is a freak athletically. He has the best chance to be a difference-maker at the center position. I like this kid a lot. I really do."

Kelce isn't lying about what he's seen in Jurgens. The athleticism, agility, fluidity and power were all on display on the NFL Scouting Combine field in Indianapolis in early March, so much that Jurgens landed on NFL.com's All-Combine Team.

It made sense, then, for the Eagles to heed Kelce's advice, compare it with what Roseman and his team of evaluators saw in Jurgens, marry the two and spend the pick on the future at center.

It also made sense for the Eagles to plan for life without Kelce, because as he's demonstrated throughout his career and especially the last five years, no member of Philadelphia's roster has been more important to the franchise. Sure, the Eagles had a bevy of contributors that helped them reach and win Super Bowl LII, but Kelce's status as an essential member of the team truly shined through in 2021, when the Eagles surprised most everyone by winning nine games and earning a playoff berth when they were expected to struggle to flirt with .500.

Kelce's play style is guaranteed to produce some incredible film cut-ups of him effectively moving from first to second level, and oftentimes, continuing downfield to spring Eagles runners for massive gains. He's an athletic, tough, relentless blocker with a career's worth of knowledge and just the right amount of a nasty streak to get the job done more reliably than anyone else (just look at his streak of career starts).

Kelce saw the same in Jurgens, a former tight end who's only been playing offensive line for two years. The position switch opened Jurgens' eyes, too.

"It was kind of early on in my career, went there at tight end, went through the offseason and fall camp and within the first game, our O-line coach and head coach, [Nebraska head coach] Coach [Scott] Frost, brought it up, like, 'Hey, we want you at center.'" Jurgens recalled during his press conference with Philadelphia media members. "Initially my reaction was holy crap, I don't know if I can gain that weight. I was probably like 240, and once I made that switch midway through the year, I put on a lot of weight really fast. That part was easy, but learning all the technicalities of it, that was a little bit of the struggle and took a little bit to harness everything.

"At the end of the day, I loved the switch. Within a week of being in the O-line, I was like, 'why was I ever a tight end?' I was tired of running down the field to not get a ball thrown my way. I love hitting dudes, so to be able to do that every play, that's my stuff."

Jurgens' enjoyment of contact and getting downfield to seek out another target sounds a lot like what has made Kelce a four-time All-Pro. The similarities don't end there, though: Jurgens believes he'll enjoy a head start with the Eagles thanks to a connection between his offensive line coaches -- Nebraska offensive line coach Greg Austin and Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland -- that has already laid the technical foundation for him.

"A lot of this stuff I did in Nebraska and stuff I was taught, especially the terminology, was very similar to what they do," Jurgens said of Stoutland and the Eagles. "My O-line coach, Greg Austin, coached with him for several years, so he came from that system, and that's his guy, that's his mentor, and kind of learned from his protégé, in my coach Austin.

"So, a lot of this stuff is a little bit of carryover and getting to learn from Coach Stout now, it's a dream come true because it's stuff I've been doing already. I'm excited to keep learning, get to go learn from him with all the incredible guys he's coached in all of his years in the NFL and get to learn from Kelce and (Eagles tackle) Lane Johnson and all those guys along that line."

Lane Johnson's name drop is important, because it identifies an archetype Roseman seeks in his offensive linemen: Athletes. Philadelphia has often sought the most athletic linemen available -- basketball players who have become tackles -- and Jurgens' background as a former tight end fits that mold.

"I think with Cam Jurgens, his athletic ability, the explosiveness, the range and mentality he played with," Roseman said when asked to explain what he liked about Jurgens. "Then we got to know him and got to know the person and the leadership and the presence he had and the fit, it was a comfort level with all of that.

"But you see it. You see it on tape and get out and lead and run and work on the second level and displace people at the line of scrimmage in run blocking, and just the mentality and the finish and all those things that we like that our offensive linemen do, we saw in Cam."

Now it's up to Jurgens to bring his notepad, open his ears and soak up everything Kelce has to offer. If the future follows the plan set by the Eagles and Kelce, Jurgens will eventually step into the massive shoes Kelce will leave behind.

That goal of succession is what prompted Roseman to involve Kelce in their process. Philadelphia is hoping for a transition that ends up proving to be the polar opposite of HBO's Roy family.

"You know, Kelce saw all the same things that we saw. We think Cam has got a chance to be a very special player in this offense," Roseman said. "And I said to Kelce, 'You know, Jason, we have this unbelievable opportunity for a guy who is really talented to learn from the best who has ever done it here.'

"And I said, "You know, I don't know if it's the perfect analogy but it's almost like [Packers QB] Aaron Rodgers had the opportunity to learn behind (former Packers QB and Pro Football Hall of Famer) Brett Favre and then the Packers basically had 25 years of elite play at the quarterback position.

"For the Philadelphia Eagles, for us, having elite play at the center position, it's important. We felt like this guy, he was different than the centers who have come out the last couple of years. We think he has a chance to be really, really good. Getting to learn from the best ever, we thought was a way for him to be even better."

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