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."

Eagles hoping no-risk, high-reward veteran signings can rekindle past success

Eagles hoping no-risk, high-reward veteran signings can rekindle past success

When you’re in salary cap hell, you have to be creative when building a roster.

And one tactic Howie Roseman used when putting together the Eagles team that begins training camp Thursday is signing a handful of no-risk, high-reward guys.

Players trying to revive their careers. Players trying to reclaim past glory. Players running out of chances.

These are no-risk, high-reward guys. They could become contributors, but if it doesn’t work out? The Eagles can release them before the season with modest or no cap ramifications.

When you’re in salary cap hell, you can’t sign all the free agents you want. So you sign the free agents that you can. And you do that by signing players nobody else wants. Guys with no leverage.

One tool Roseman likes to use is the NFL’s minimum-salary benefit, which gives teams some salary cap relief when they sign veteran players to certain deals.

The minimum-salary benefit can be used only for veterans with at least four years of experience who sign one-year minimum-wage deals with combined bonuses equalling $90,000 or less. 

Here’s a look at four of these no-risk, high-reward players the Eagles added this offseason.

Markus Wheaton

The Eagles signed Wheaton to a one-year deal with a $790,000 base salary (sixth-year minimum) with a $45,000 signing bonus, a $45,000 workout bonus but a cap number of $720,000, thanks to the minimum-salary benefit.

If the Eagles release Wheaton before the season, he would count just $90,000 against the cap, the value of his two bonuses.

Wheaton is only 27 and should be in his prime but has done nearly nothing the last two seasons after two very good years.

In 2014 and 2015, he combined for 97 catches for 1,393 yards, seven touchdowns and a 14.4 average. He had seven catches of 40 yards or more during those two years. Pretty good production.

But the last two years, Wheaton had just seven catches for 102 yards and one TD for the Steelers and Bears.

If he’s healthy and can be even half the player he was in 2014 and 2015, he could really help as a fourth receiver.

Matt Jones

The Eagles signed Jones to a two-year, $1.51 million deal that includes base salaries of $705,000 this year and $805,000 next year with no bonus money, which means no dead cap money if he’s released.

Even though Jones’ deal is not subject to the minimum-salary benefit, his base salaries of $705,000 and $805,000 are minimum wage for a third-year veteran in 2018 and a fourth-year vet in 2019.

Jones was one of the NFL’s best running backs the first half of 2016. Through seven games, he had 460 yards and a 4.6 average with three TDs. In a mid-October win over the Eagles at FedEx Field, he ran for 135 yards, the most rushing yards against the Eagles the last two years.

But he hurt his knee and never got his job back, then was released before last season. He resurfaced with the Colts but had only five carries all year.

Jones is only 25 and is a good enough receiver that he caught 19 passes for 304 yards and a TD as a rookie reserve.

With LeGarrette Blount gone, Jay Ajayi on a pitch count because of chronic knee soreness, Corey Clement’s role still undefined and Darren Sproles likely to be limited on offense at 35 years old, Jones will have a chance to work his way into the mix.

And if it doesn’t work out? No cap hit.

Richard Rodgers

The Eagles signed Rodgers to a one-year, $880,000 contract that includes a $790,000 base salary, a $45,000 signing bonus, a $45,000 workout bonus and a $720,000 cap figure, courtesy of the minimum-salary benefit rule.

If the Eagles release him, he’ll count $245,000 in dead money, the amount of guaranteed money in his one-year deal.

As recently as 2015, Rodgers caught 58 passes for 510 yards and eight touchdowns, which ranked him 12th among all NFL tight ends in catches and fifth in TDs. But he dropped to 30 catches in 2016 and just 12 last year.

Rodgers is only 26 and should be in his prime, but he’s reached only 30 yards twice in his last 31 games.

With Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, the Eagles have a potent 1-2 punch, but if Rodgers can regain his form of 2015, it would give Doug Pederson even more options in a ridiculously talented array of skill players.

LaRoy Reynolds

The Eagles signed Reynolds to a one-year, $880,000 contract that includes a $790,000 base salary, a $90,000 roster bonus and a reduced $720,000 cap figure.

Because there’s nothing guaranteed in his contract, the Eagles would not absorb any dead money under the cap if they release him before the season.

Reynolds, now with his fourth team in four years, has played in 68 games with seven starts. He’s only 27 and is considered an above-average special teamer and adequate depth linebacker.

The Eagles have some big question marks at linebacker, with Paul Worrilow (Reynolds’ former teammate) out for the year, Mychal Kendricks now with the Browns, Nigel Bradham suspended for the opener and Jordan Hicks able to finish one of his first three seasons.

Reynolds will have a chance to work into that mix. If not? No harm done.

More on the Eagles

Eagle Eye: When does a contract negotiation become a problem?

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Eagle Eye: When does a contract negotiation become a problem?

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, John Clark and Barrett Brooks are pumped for the start of training camp. Following MLB Commissioner's comments on Mike Trout's marketability, the guys discuss if it's on the player or the league to market an athlete? The Falcons said they will not give Julio Jones a new contract. At what point does a public contract negotiation become a distraction in the locker room?

1:00 - Guys are excited for the start of training camp.
4:45 - Is it on a player or a league to market an athlete?
11:00 - When does a Julio Jones contract situation become a locker room distraction?
18:00 - When money starts dividing a locker room.

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