Suddenly, Kelce is Front and Center

Sixth-round draft pick Jason Kelce is getting alot of reps with the first team at center. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

BETHLEHEM --- Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg outlined the battle at center pretty starkly.

Minutes earlier, head coach Andy Reid had taken care to mention just about every possibility this side of unretiring Bubba Miller, when asked about the fact that sixth-round rookie Jason Kelce from Cincinnati is taking a lot of reps with the first team.

But Mornhinweg cut to the chase.

"I think Kelce's a fine football player. He's in the mdidle of a learning curve. So he's good a lot of hard work and preparation (ahead). Jamaal (Jackson)'s got an awful lot of experiece. He's coming off two major injuries (ACL and triceps) the last couple of years."

Morhinweg said he is "not leery at all" of Jackson's recent injury history, but added: "There's some good competition going on there, two different styles, two different types of player. One with experience, one very young."

"Kelce is an athletic, tough, mean type of player who's really bright," Mornhinweg said. "Jamaal really smart, excellent pass protector, great amount of experience, strong player. Both are very, very good."

This battle -- which wasn't supposed to be a battle coming into camp, Reid said Jackson was his starting center -- highlights the change in offensive line coaches from Juan Castillo to Howard Mudd. Jackson, who took the starting job from Hank Fraley in 2005, is a Castillo prototype -- 6-4, 325, powerful. Kelce, listed a little generously at 6-3, 282, a quicker, more athletic Mud prototype.

A lot has to happen; the preseason doesn't even start until Thursday. But already we can say Mike McGlynn, who inherited the starting job last year when Jackson went down in the opener, does not seem to be in the mix. Good luck finding A.Q. Shipley or Dallas Reynolds, whose names Reid recited, playing center in front of Mike Vick. It's Kelce and Jackson, and it seems to be more Kelce, right now.

"Very unexpected to be taking reps with the first team, and everything I've been doing," Kelce said after a muggy, sluggish morning practice on sodden Lehigh fields. "I'm just kind of taking it day by day."

Would the Eagles start a rookie at center? Remember, one of the things Mudd has changed is that the quarterback makes the line audibles, not the center, as has been the case in the past.

"I think I got to a great situation here in Philadelphia," said Kelce, who touted the help he has gotten from Jackson and McGlynn. (Jackson, though, declined to speak with reporters following practice.)

Other AM notes:

*These are the days when you notice Jason Avant, who never lets the work ethic drag. Two magnificent catches today, one better than the other, both leaping, diving grabs past corners who thought they had him covered. Andy Reid lauded Avant as the best slot receiver in the league.

*Reid extolled Vince Young's competitiveness, on a day when the former Titans QB seemed to be fighting the ball, and maybe the offense.

*Reid's plan for DeSean Jackson, expected to report tomorrow: "We'll see when he gets here."

*Nnamdi Asomugha sat out practice with what Reid said was minor "upper leg inflammation." Trent Cole sat with bursitis, Sinorice Moss with a groin, Anthony Hargrove left with cramps. Isaiah Trufant suffered a dislocated finger.

*Reid said there was nothing new to report on Mike Patterson, or on Jeremy Maclin. Maclin again watched practice.