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Monday, September 17, 2012
Kelce loss bad, not devastating for Eagles

By Dan Graziano

Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce has significant knee ligament damage, and while the team isn't ruling him out for the year, season-ending surgery remains a possibility. At the very least, they must be prepared to play without him for four to six weeks. For an offensive line that already lost its best player, left tackle Jason Peters, to an Achilles injury in the offseason, this is certainly not good news. But I don't think it's a season-crippling bit of news for the Eagles, and here's why:

Dallas Reynolds, who replaced Kelce on Sunday and is slated to replace him going forward, is not just some guy the Eagles plucked off the street when they got in a jam. He spent three years (which is the maximum allowable number of years) on the Eagles' practice squad before making this year's 53-man roster as Kelce's backup. He did not win that spot by default. There was competition. He had to beat out two other players for it. Reynolds was offensive line coach Howard Mudd's pick to fill this exact role, and the reason is that Mudd believed he was ready to fill in if Kelce got hurt.

This is no real stretch. Kelce was a rookie last year and had Mudd's scheme down cold almost from the beginning. It was something of a surprise in 2011 training camp when everyone realized Kelce might win the starting job ahead of Jamaal Jackson, but by midseason it made all the sense in the world. Reynolds could conceivably play well enough to make everyone forget they were ever worried about this. He worked to learn Mudd's schemes all of last year and in training camp this year. And if you ask an Eagles offensive lineman, he'll tell you that Mudd's blocking schemes can take a little time to learn but that once you've got them down, you've got them down. Kelce, Evan Mathis and Danny Watkins all stand as examples of guys who figured it out all of a sudden and never looked back. It's possible Demetress Bell, who went in at left tackle Sunday and played well after King Dunlap got hurt, could be the latest such example.

Point is, the Eagles have faith in Mudd and his ability to put together an effective run-blocking and pass-protecting offensive line. They do not fear a lack of depth, because they believe they created competition for their backup spots and that it made everyone better. Kelce is a very good player who will be missed, but I think it's more than a little bit possible that Reynolds will fill in just fine.