Just the confirmation, that Jason Kelce was returning to the Eagles in 2021, made for a swell feeling through the weekend. His importance to the team – on and off the field – is high, and having Kelce back with his leadership and his quality of play ties together an offensive that has a chance to vault right back to the top of the league rankings after injuries ravaged the room last season.
“I’m excited,” Kelce said, “about what we have.”
With a strong offensive line returning – it is fair to understand that right guard Brandon Brooks needs to come back healthy after missing last season with an Achilles tendon injury, and the same for right tackle Lane Johnson who had ankle surgery last season, and that either Jordan Mailata or Andre Dillard has to step up and win the left tackle job – the offense has a chance to operate the kind of multiple scheme that new Head Coach Nick Sirianni and Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen are installing.
There are no specifics on exactly what the Eagles plan to run offensively in terms of a scheme, and maybe it won’t be a situation where we “stamp” a label on the system. Sirianni and Head Coach Frank Reich implemented a flexible scheme in Indianapolis and needed that flexibility with a quarterback picture that evolved from Andrew Luck to Jacoby Brissett to Philip Rivers in a span of three seasons. The Eagles have a quarterback situation that is, at this moment, uncertain, and so Sirianni and Steichen have to play to the strengths of the starter, whomever that may be when September rolls around. And they should have that flexibility with an offensive line that has a promising starting five and depth that has been built through a tough 2020 season that allowed young linemen like Mailata, Nate Herbig, Matt Pryor, and Jack Driscoll gaining valuable game reps.
Returning Offensive Line Coach Jeff Stoutland, one of the best in the world at what he does, has some tools in his box with which to work. That Kelce, the glue, is back makes Stoutland’s job infinity easier. The brains of the operation returns and the pieces around him, fragmented in 2020, hopefully come back healthy and ready to be a force.
If the Eagles can have stability up front, the offense has a chance to function at the level Sirianni wants.
The Eagles have spent the last several weeks preparing for free agency, working the salary cap and the roster, and setting themselves up for March 17 at 4 PM when the new league year kicks off. What they’re able to do, what kind of resources they’re going to have to be players in free agency, well, we’re going to find out soon enough. The Eagles have needs throughout the roster as they look to rebound from the 2020 4-11-1 disappointment.
Having Kelce back in the fold, then, is a big step. He is a three-time All-Pro player and is coming off his fourth Pro Bowl season. Kelce has started all 16 regular-season games in each of the last six seasons. His presence is vital for the offense as the new coaching staff – Kelce’s fourth – takes the attack in a new direction.
“I don’t know a whole lot right now. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet Nick a couple of times upstairs (in the NovaCare Complex) and meeting some of the guys upstairs and talking just a little bit with them,” Kelce said. “I’m looking forward to talking more with them. You try to embrace it. You try to be ready. They’re figuring out how they want to do it, how it’s going to look, how we’re going to communicate it. It’s pretty exciting with all the energy they have and what they want to get done.”
A lot of work remains and, yes, there is so much we just don’t know. But the offensive line is coming back as a strength – and it’s official now that Kelce has made his intentions clear to return. And when you have an offensive line, one that potentially can be among the best in the league, you have a chance to do some really good things on offense. Kelce’s news was good, then. Something to build around and gain some momentum with as free agency nears.