Cam Jurgens has been working under Jason Kelce with a goal of one day taking his spot. That apprenticeship has been going well at training camp, but now it’s time for some on-the-job learning. The Philadelphia Eagles rookie center will start Friday’s preseason opener.
Jurgens has been forced into starting duty with Kelce out due to elbow surgery. The 6-foot-3, 303-pounder was getting blasted by fans for a 1-on-1 rep that went viral against Jordan Davis. One play doesn’t define him. He’s been running with the ones and holding his own at camp. Now, Jurgens is the next man up and he’s ready to show off what Kelce taught him.
“Just going in where they told me to go, got to fill in for whoever is down, Kelce’s down right now so I just got to do my best,” Jurgens told reporters. “I feel like I get more ready every day. I’m excited. I’m just ready to play some more football and hit someone else besides our own team.”
Kelce continues to coach his successor up from a distance, whether it’s a reassuring text or work in the film room. The advanced placement course for NFL centers remains in session.
“He’ll be in my ear. He’s in everybody’s ear,” Jurgens said of Kelce. “He’s got words for me every day so I’m just listening to everything he says.”
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Leaning on Best Offensive Line in Football
Kelce gets all the headlines, but the entire offensive line room in Philly has been an invaluable resource for Jurgens. The Eagles arguably own the best unit in football — Pro Football Focus ranked them No. 4 in 2021; the team topped the NFL in rushing yards — and coach Jeff Stoutland runs a tight ship. There are no excuses.
“Just listening to Stout and the O-lineman around me,” Jurgens said. “For the most part just trying to get better every day, focus on the little things and, more or less, the thing I’m trying to focus on — I got supreme faith and confidence in the guys to the right and left of me so I’m just trying to earn that respect and get that confidence from them in me.”
The center’s most important job is diagnosing the defense and making checks at the line of scrimmage. He needs to call out the protections, too. Jurgens has been using the extra reps to get on the same page with his new linemates.
“It’s great to have Isaac [Seumalo] and Lane [Johnson] and Jordan [Mailata] and Landon [Dickerson] there because we’re all one cohesive unit so we’re all giving advice to each other,” Jurgens said. “We’re all like looking for the same stuff so it helps when everybody is working together.”
The Difference Between College and NFL
Jurgens, a second-round pick out of Nebraska, started every game at center for the Cornhuskers in 2021 while stretching his consecutive starts streak to 18. Some strengths, via scouting reports: above-average athleticism, lateral quickness, hand strength, strong core. He’s trying to translate everything over to the pros.
“Improving every day,” Jurgens said. “I feel like I’ve been able to pick it up but there’s one thing from like learning it and then doing it. That’s why it’s great to get all these extra reps right now.”
One surprise has been the difference in intensity from college to the pros. Jurgens said he barely saw the light of the day at Nebraska, confined to the indoor practice facility 24/7 in Lincoln where “they kind of grind your body down.” It was 100 reps a day, sometimes more. But the Eagles are more interested in training players’ minds, in the meeting rooms and with mental reps during walkthroughs.
“The NFL is more mental, detail-oriented,” Jurgens said. “Here, it’s like how hard can you train your mind to do a perfect rep?”