Eagles

How Jason Kelce has rejuvenated his career

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How Jason Kelce has rejuvenated his career

He didn't get cut. He didn't get traded. He didn't get benched.
 
No, Jason Kelce got better.
 
Kelce, the subject of nonstop speculation after a subpar 2016 season, has reshaped his game this year and in his seventh NFL season is playing the best football of his life.
 
"I think so," Kelce said Sunday after the Eagles trounced the Bears to improve to 10-1. "Across the board, it's been that way."
 
The Eagles are 10-1 with a nine-game winning streak, the offense is ranked third in the NFL, and a rejuvenated Kelce has been in the middle of everything.
 
Run blocking? The Eagles are second in the NFL with 148 rushing yards per game.
 
Pass blocking? Carson Wentz is having an MVP season with 28 touchdowns and five interceptions.
 
The entire line has been lights out this fall. But Kelce, in particular, has turned his career around.
 
You have to give the Eagles' brass credit for sticking with Kelce. Instead of just moving on and perhaps replacing him with Isaac Seumalo, O-line coach Jeff Stoutland worked tirelessly with Kelce during last season and in particular during the offseason, identifying his struggles and then working to correct them.
 
"It's been a lot of fun so far, and it was a struggle last year, especially through the first half of the season," Kelce said. "We've worked really, really hard, and Stout's been on me and he's staying on me all season with my hands and my footwork and my technique and it's really made an improvement in my game.
 
"I can't thank him and everyone else for sticking with me. It's been a pleasure this year to be able to play … not just myself but our entire offensive line, the way (Brandon) Brooks and Wiz (Stefen Wisniewski) are playing next to me are making my job easier, and the way the tackles are playing makes everybody's job easier. This has been a very fun year, I think for the entire offensive line so far."
 
With Kelce struggling halfway through last season, the offense sputtering and the Eagles losing games, Kelce and Stoutland began breaking down Kelce's technique.
 
Slowly, gradually, Kelce's level of play began improving. And this year, he's flat-out dominated.
 
"We really looked hard at a lot of the technique things," Kelce said. "Stout has been very critical and I don't know if it's when you're younger you get away with things because you're a little bit more athletic and a little bit stronger or if it's the no-huddle (under Chip Kelly from 2013-15) that allows you to get away with things, but I started to lose track of some of the fundamentals that allowed me to play at a high level.
 
"In particular, (my) hands. I think if you look at a couple games early (last year) it seems like I always have my hands outside. Sometimes if you're heavier you can get away with that, but when you're already undersized and you're losing that aspect of power, you're losing the leverage game, you're (going to struggle). Bad technique as well as being undersized is a bad recipe for an offensive lineman."
 
Kelce did make his second Pro Bowl team last year, but that was really just a tribute to his terrific career body of work than anything he did last year.
 
It wasn't until about this time a year ago that Kelce started to resemble vintage Jason Kelce once again.
 
Now, Kelce is better than ever, and it would be a shock if he's not picked to his third Pro Bowl team.

More importantly, the Eagles have won nine straight games, averaging 30.1 points per game during that stretch.
 
"I think it's a combination of I'm playing better myself and using better technique and I think the coaches have done a phenomenal job of putting everybody in good situations," he said. 

"It seems like every single play we've got dialed up is to a look that we want. When you have good players put in good positions it's going to lead to good football, and I think right now we have a lot of that."

Quite a Christmas present coming for Jordan Hicks

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USA Today Images

Quite a Christmas present coming for Jordan Hicks

It won't be a surprise, but Jordan Hicks is going to get a pretty great Christmas present this year. 

He won't find it under his tree either. 

Hicks, who has been recovering from a torn Achilles tendon and surgery, will hit another big milestone in his recovery on Dec. 25. That's the day the walking boot comes off of his right foot. 

"Real good present, right?" Hicks said. 

Hicks, 25, tore his right Achilles on the second play from scrimmage against Washington on Oct. 23. Having already torn his left Achilles in college, Hicks knew immediately that his season was over and a long recovery was ahead of him. 

But Hicks has no doubt he'll return to being the same player he was before. He thinks he'll be even better. 

"Oh there's no question about that," Hicks said on Friday, speaking to a group of reporters in the Eagles' locker room for the first time since the injury. "There's no question about that. I'll be fine. I did my left Achilles in college and came back better. I know more, the advancements are better. There's no doubt in my mind I'll be a better player when I come back."

Hicks said the normal recovery time from an Achilles rupture is 6 to 9 months. The six-month mark will be April. He expects to be back for training camp and be completely ready for next season. 

Before suffering this Achilles tear, Hicks had been dealing with an ankle injury on his left leg. Hicks, who has been labeled as an injury prone player since college, was very proud of playing all 16 games in 2016. So when that ankle injury popped up earlier this season, he tried to play through it. That ankle injury led to a calf injury in his right leg and then the Achilles popped. Hicks thinks overcompensating for the initial injury led to a more serious one. 

"I think a couple weeks could have helped me, but it's always easy to look back," Hicks said. "Hindsight is 20/20. I wouldn't change anything just because it's my personality. It's who I am. All I want to do is be there for my teammates. Every time I step out there, the biggest goal for me is to have my teammates know that I'm their leader and I can be accountable. For me to sit here and say I shouldn't have been out there those weeks, it's hard for me to say that because all I want to do is be out there."

Hicks lasted just a couple plays in that Washington game before his Achilles popped. Because he had been through the same injury before, he knew immediately that his season was over and he was looking at a long road to recovery ahead of him. And initially, it wasn't easy. Jason Peters joined him in the locker room a quarter later with his own season-ending injury and tried to raise his spirits, but that didn't change the fact that Hicks' season was over. 

And for the second time in his three-year career, he knew he would end the season on injured reserve. 

"The grief set in," he said. "For the first week or so, it was tough, but man, there's no time for that. There's no time to sit here and sulk. There's no time to think about what could have been. ... All I'm focusing on is making sure I'm better and ready next year for my guys. That's all it is. For me, it's about accountability."

While Hicks made a rare appearance in the Eagles' locker room during media time on Friday, he's been around the building plenty. He and the Eagles' other injured players have remained involved despite their injuries. In fact, every week, Hicks studies opponent film to see how they handle blitzes. And every Friday, he gets in front of the defense to present it. 

After the injury, Jim Schwartz came to him and asked him to do this. 

"It's easy to isolate yourself in situations like this," Hicks said. "For him to come up to me and ask me to do that was big. I try to keep guys' spirits up and share my perspective." 

For the last month and a half, Hicks has been around the team but has been forced to watch games on TV, which he said is really tough. He hopes that's about to end. He'll be in North Jersey this weekend for the Giants game and hopes he'll be back on the sideline. 

"It's tough," Hicks said. "It's never easy to go through something like this. It tests your patience, this tests your character. You learn a lot through these times because it is so difficult. You have to really grind through some hard times. Put your head down and I think your character is really shown through this."

Nick Foles may not have full protection vs. Giants

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Nick Foles may not have full protection vs. Giants

The Eagles will have a new quarterback this weekend, but they might not be able to protect him as well as they hope. 

Starting left guard Stefen Wisniewski will officially be listed as questionable for Sunday's game because of an ankle injury. 

Wiz had to leave the Rams game in the first half and did not return. He missed practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday. 

"We'll see where he's at today," head coach Doug Pederson said on Friday. 

After Wisniewski came out of the Rams game, he was replaced by Chance Warmack, who was then replaced by Isaac Seumalo. 

It sounds like Warmack will have the first chance to play this weekend if Wisniewski can't go. 

"We've worked Chance at that position this week," Pederson said. "Isaac has obviously gotten some reps really at all the positions but that would be the most logical."

Seumalo actually began the season as the team's starting left guard after he won the position in the offseason. From there, Warmack got the first crack at replacing him when he was benched, but Warmack couldn't keep the job, eventually giving way to a rotation before Wisniewski simply took over. The line has been much better since Wiz took over the starting job in Week 3. 

Alshon Jeffery and Steven Means, who both missed Thursday's practice with illnesses, will be back on the practice field on Friday. Both should be fine for this weekend's game. 

The Eagles will practice outside in 28-degree weather on Friday as they prepare for Sunday's outdoor game at MetLife Stadium. 

No word on the condition of the recycling can Jason Kelce kicked inside the bubble after getting cleated on Thursday. At least the outdoor practice will give it another day of rest.