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Kelce Injury Changes Face of O-Line

By Adam Hermann,

Chip Kelly told reporters Monday that center Jason Kelce will undergo sports hernia surgery, making him the third Eagles offensive lineman to go down with a serious injury this season.

Kelly will talk to doctors and trainers this afternoon for a better understanding of how long he can expect Kelce to be sidelined, but one thing’s for certain: when the Eagles face the 49ers Sunday, only two of the team’s starting five offensive linemen from Week 1 will take the field.

The second-year head coach, who had a very healthy offensive line for the entirety of his first year in the league, didn’t know Monday what the team’s plan was going into Sunday’s matchup in San Francisco.

But as potentially disastrous as the scenario sounds, the offense has still managed to execute behind a patchwork offensive line.

“I don’t have a level of concern,” Kelly said when prompted on how worried he is about his offensive line. “Just tell us who we’ve got and who’s available to play, and let’s go play.”

When Kelce exited the game in the third quarter against Washington on Sunday, center David Molk slid into the position. Kelly likes what he’s seen from the third-year lineman.

“He’s a competitor,” Kelly said of Molk. “He’s extremely quick off the ball, so he really gets into the defender really quickly. He’ll fight you, he’s a tough, competitive guy in there, and he’ll scrap and give you everything he’s got.

“In the games he’s gotten in, whether it be at guard or center, I think he’s really competed when he’s out there.”

In Kelly’s system, the center is the offensive line’s quarterback. The center makes the calls in terms of setting the front and directing where the line and the offense is going.

Kelly trusts Molk to come in and be able to communicate from the outset, mainly because he liked what he’s seen from Molk in his playing time this season, specifically Sunday. Kelly said there were no communication issues against Washington when Molk entered the game.

“Molk’s good,” Kelly said. “He’s not Jason, just because he doesn’t have the experience in our system. Molk’s only been here a year, Jason was here longer and was through the whole system longer, so obviously Jason’s ahead of him from that standpoint. But Molk’s a smart football player and he understands what’s going on out there.

“When the first guy’s down, the second guy’s got to take over.”

After Sunday’s game Molk sounded confident in his ability to play up to Kelly’s standards at center, and wasn’t interested in making a big deal out of the opportunity.

“It’s just playing football,” Molk said of the injuries to the offensive line. “We know the situation, but you can’t let the situation dictate to you. Really we just came together, we found our way as a team, and with our leaderNick Foles, we win.”

The team will also look to another pair of linemen for added depth and possible lineup combinations inMatt Tobin and Wade Smith. After tackle Jason Peters was ejected in the fourth quarter, Smith went in at left guard.

Smith has experience at center, both guard spots and left tackle, making him an extremely versatile weapon for an offensive line in need of anything.

“The way it works around here, everybody is up. We practice and prepare for every scenario. You have to be a professional and understand that you may be thrown into a unique situation,” Smith said after the game. “When you get your chance, you make the most of it. They bring everybody up to speed very quickly here. They get you ready to play, no matter where on the line of scrimmage they may want to use you.”

Tobin was inactive for Sunday’s game, still hampered by an ankle injury despite practicing during the week. If he’s ready to play against the 49ers, Kelly said the Eagles will look for him to be versatile, too.

“Where are we looking for him to help?” Kelly rhetorically asked with a smile. “Anywhere. Right now up front, we don’t have a lot up there. I don’t know where the rest of the situation is, but we’ll sit down and see where (Tobin) is and fits in, but he can play a couple positions.”

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