Thursday, November 26, 2015

Patriots' Vince Wilfork: Jason Kelce 'one of the best centers in the league'


Patriots' Vince Wilfork: Jason Kelce 'one of the best centers in the league'

Eagles center Jason Kelce. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Eagles center Jason Kelce. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)


That's what Patriots NT Vince Wilfork yelled at Eagles center Jason Kelce after practice Thursday, as Kelce was being interviewed by a dozen or so reporters. Over the last two days, in addition to the joint practices the Eagles held with the Patriots last year, Wilfork and Kelce have gotten to know each other quite a bit, and Wilfork thinks highly of Kelce's game.

"I think he's underrated," said Wilfork. "To be an undersized guy, especially to play the center position, and the strength he plays with, the technique he plays with, it says a lot about his game and his knowledge of the game. He's a tough competitor. That's one thing I noticed right away. He's getting the line set, he's making all the communication calls. You look at him on film, and he's not the biggest guy, but he plays with a big heart.

"I think he's one of the best centers in this league, and there are some good ones out there." 

That is high praise from a player like Wilfork, who has 158 career games under his over-sized belt and has been in the league since 2004, the year the Patriots beat the Eagles in the Super Bowl. In other words, Wilfork has seen his share of centers. 

Kelce's game can often be under-appreciated. Back in February, we charted all 48 sacks that the Eagles allowed last season. Here's what we said about Kelce:

Kelce had a lot of help with double teams, but that's the nature of the position. Like Mathis, Kelce was at fault for just two sacks, and was only physically beaten on one. The other was a bad shotgun snap. Kelce was the only Eagles offensive lineman not to have been responsible for a sack as a result of a misread or miscommunication. He does a tremendous job of seeing blitzes and acting appropriately. Some people would prefer a bigger center, as they believe that Kelce is easily bull rushed. Kelce did struggle in one game against the Giants, but if you watch the sacks allowed in 2013, that sentiment is complete and total nonsense.

Another thing to note about Kelce is that there was concern about how he would recover from a torn ACL the previous season. He was very good in pass protection, and that isn't even what he does best. Only a handful of centers come close to Kelce in terms of athleticism, as Kelce is a weapon both in the screen game and as a run blocker getting to the second level. If Kelce continues to play the way he did in 2013, he should begin to get Pro Bowl consideration His lofty contract extension is well deserved.

There aren't many centers who can boast this kind of highlight reel based off of one season (via Larry Mitros of Inside the Eagles):

Of course, it's possible that Wilfork could have just been returning the favor for nice things Kelce said about him earlier in the week. But two things are certain:

1) Kelce and Wilfork have a mutual man crush.

2) Wilfork's comments about Kelce are accurate.

Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski

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