Eagles Make a Change, But Not at Linebacker

Eagles Make a Change, But Not at Linebacker

While most of the Bird watching world was expecting to see change in the air after last Thursday's thrashing at the hands of the Steelers, they were probably looking in the wrong skies. While the linebackers will remain the same for now, the offensive line will have a new look when the Browns visit the Linc this week.

Over the weekend CSN's Reuben reports that Frank Eagles' sixth round pick Jason Kelce has been taking all of the first team snaps at center in practice this week in anticipation of making his first start against Cleveland--a change that could mark the end of Jamaal Jackson's run as the club's man in the middle.

After flirting with the idea during training camp, at times splitting time with the ones between Kelce and Jackson, the coaches must really like what they see out of the rookie, and think it's time for a test run.

Marty Mornhinweg told reporters on Sunday the rookie "earned" the opportunity, while the Inquirer's Tim Rohan wrote two weeks ago Kelce is precisely the kind of player offensive line coach Howard Mudd prefers--"an athletic brick wall with quick feet."

The job isn't officially Kelce's just yet, but it sure sounds as though it may be his to lose, which is something of a surprise. Even with all the changes at right tackle so far, the offensive line has been steady through two preseason games. At least, the performance at center wasn't something that stood out, which isn't a bad thing.

Meanwhile, it's fair to speculate what would happen to Jackson, who has been the starting center since taking over for Hank Fraley in 2005. After Jackson tore his ACL down the stretch in '09, he managed to return for opening day last year, only to sustain a torn triceps, once again ending his season.

With the Eagles in "win now" mode, it might make sense to keep Jackson, but he's set to make $1.5 million. He has years remaining on his contract though (signed through 2013), and might fetch a mid-round pick in a trade. Plus, it's not as if the Eagles have nobody else who could fill in. Mike McGlynn was, let's go with capable, in 15 starts last year.

Kelce winning the job would be one heck of an upset, but not necessarily a bad move. He comes into the position with more of a pedigree than either of the last two regulars, both of whom were undrafted free agents. And let's face it, the change will happen sooner or later. Jackson is 31, and suddenly very injury prone.

The Eagles don't have much time remaining to make a decision. The third game is the biggest tune-up of the preseason, and Andy Reid historically holds the majority of his key players out of the final scrimmage. It sure looks like it's going to be Kelce with any sort of decent showing on Thursday.

>> Eagles to test rookie Kelce in starting center role [CSN]
>> Kelce just the kind of lineman Mudd likes [Inquirer]
>> Eagles: Kelce has 'earned' shot at center [BirdS' Eye View]

Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

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Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

INDIANAPOLIS — Penn State’s offense rewrote the Big Ten Championship’s offensive record book Saturday night but its 38-31 victory over Wisconsin wasn’t secure until the final minute.

And Linebacker U. got the game-saving play from the secondary.

Wisconsin, armed with a pair of timeouts and lining up for a fourth-and-1 play from the Nittany Lions’ 24, called on Corey Clement. Clement, who’d already racked up 166 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, got the ball but never got close to the marker.

Grant Haley made sure of it.

The junior cornerback wrapped up Clement’s legs and safety Marcus Allen kept Clement from leaning forward and the game was over. Penn State (11-2) has the 2016 Big Ten title and, at worst, will play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2009.

“They ran [a counter] early in the game and split it for a touchdown,” Haley said of the final play. “I saw them set the edge, so I got triggered really well and Marcus finished off the play.”

Haley and company watched the Badgers run wild in the first half; 164 yards and three touchdowns, including Clement’s 67-yard scamper. Wisconsin, one of the conference’s best rushing teams this season, managed less than half that total (77) in the second half.

“They really weren’t running that many plays,” Haley added. “We just came out in the second half and had a jolt. 

“We just had the energy going into the second half.”

Wisconsin got the ball twice in the fourth quarter but managed only 65 yards - 51 of which came on its final drive.

“Give credit to Penn State for coming out in the second half and making those adjustments and allowing those big plays to happen,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. 

Give plenty of credit, too, to the Nittany Lions’ offense. 

Quarterback Trace McSorley was named the game’s most valuable player after completing 17 of his 25 passes for 319 yards and four touchdowns - both championship game records. He helped Penn State complete the biggest comeback in the game’s six year history after his team fell behind 28-7 in the first half and also finished the regular season with 3,360 yards and 25 touchdown passes, both school records.

Saeed Blacknall had six catches for a Big Ten Championship-record 155 yards and two touchdowns and DaeShean Hamilton finished with 118 yards on eight grabs.

Tailback Saquon Barkley, injured in last weekend’s victory over Michigan State, returned with 88 yards and a touchdown on the ground and caught an 18-yard scoring pass from McSorley early in the fourth quarter to put the Nittany Lions ahead for good.

Penn State, in its first-ever trip to this game, is coming home from it with just its second outright Big Ten title. It’s on a nine-game winning streak that has seen it average 40 points per contest.

It also could present the College Football Playoff selection committee with a bit of quandary. The Nittany Lions, who were ranked seventh by the committee last week, topped the No. 6 Badgers and claimed a conference championship, something likely playoff teams Alabama, Clemson and Washington all boast.

On the flip side, Penn State’s last defeat was a lopsided 49-10 loss at Michigan, which sits at No. 5 in the rankings and likely won’t move into the top four after losing last week to No. 2 Ohio State.

Penn State coach James Franklin stated his team’s case after Saturday night’s win, but also made it clear he and his team won’t be moping their way to Pasadena, Calif., where the conference champion is slotted if it is not chosen for the playoff.

“We’ve got great options in front of us,” he said. “I hear people on TV talking about they feel like maybe the playoff has taken away from the bowls. 

“Are you kidding me? The Rose Bowl? It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.”

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Jordan Matthews will not play Sunday against the Bengals after missing practice all week with an ankle sprain, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Matthews is the Eagles' leading receiver with 57 catches for 686 yards and three touchdowns. The team has called him a game-time decision.

Second-year receiver Nelson Agholor will reportedly be inserted back into the lineup. If Matthews doesn't play the Eagles will have only four healthy receivers active on Sunday: Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham and undrafted rookies Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner.