FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — David Molk isn’t thrilled that his uptick in second-team reps came at the expense of an injured teammate.
At the same time, it’s an opportunity for him to show that he’s exactly what the Eagles need at his position.
“Frankly, as far as this offensive line and [how] this offense is built ... this is what I am made for,” Molk, a center who signed this offseason as a street free agent, said. “Smaller, quicker, faster guy who's strong, uses good balance. This is what my tools are made for.”
Molk, a 2012 seventh-round pick by the Chargers, spent his entire 2013 season out of football, but the Eagles were looking to fortify center this offseason. They finished last season with just two natural centers, starter Jason Kelce and backup Julian Vandervelde.
Back problems sidelined Vandervelde near the end of last year and have again plagued the lineman this summer, forcing him to undergo his second procedure since last year. Molk has since taken over all second-team reps and stands to make the team if Vandervelde, like Dennis Kelly last year, isn’t ready by the season opener.
“Frankly, sadly it is the result of an injury,” Molk said, “but it has been huge opportunity for me. All I can do is capitalize.”
Molk isn’t short on confidence, even though he spent last year on the unemployment line, even though he tumbled into the seventh round two years ago despite being voted as the Big Ten Conference’s top offensive lineman, even though he helped plow the way for two 1,000-yard rushers in his last season at Michigan.
At the NFL Scouting Combine, he made headlines by going on a tirade about scouting reports that placed Wisconsin center Peter Konz, another Big Ten lineman, as the best center of the class.
“The fact they could consider any center better than me is pretty stupid,” he then said, adding that his “strength is far better, I’m faster, I would say I’m smarter. Obviously, he’s an intelligent person, I’ve talked to him, but I just think I have a technique that’s unmatched.”
Konz eventually went in the second round to the Falcons. Molk, who’s on the shrimpy side for an offensive lineman at 6-foot-1, couldn’t overcome his own physical limitations on draft weekend.
Which is kind of what prompted his tirade. He fully anticipated being passed over.
“Frankly, I am mad at myself for saying that, but it was kind of out of a fit of rage,” he said. “Because I knew about the situation I came from in college, where I was the best and then you come into this situation because of all my shortcomings — You know what I mean? My short … comings — I knew where I was going to be.”
With the Eagles, his size hasn’t deterred him from learning Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense or precluded him from impressing the coaches.
Kelly said he scrambled to sign Molk off the scrap heap this offseason to make sure another team didn’t.
“You always need to have three centers and we didn't have anybody on the current roster that could be a center,” Kelly said. “So if Jason were to go down or Julian were to go down, where do you turn?
“So we try to identify another center prospect and David was available, and there's not a lot of them out there. I think one of the reasons we wanted to move on him early was we didn't think he would be around very long if we didn't move on him early, and now you're trying to piece someone in there.
“He's done a nice job with Julian being out. He's smart. He's grasped what [offensive line coach] Jeff [Stoutland] is teaching up front. He's a real coachable guy in terms of being able to change because some of the techniques he had were not what we were teaching and so he's really adapted very well to that.”
Molk sees Kelly’s program and his offense as the best place where he can fulfill his potential and stick around.
“God, I hope so. I don't want to come here for a couple hours, and [they] say, ‘Hey, get out of here, go find somewhere else.’ I want some stability like any other guy in this job. I'd love to stay here. I love the offense.”
Molk will see plenty of snaps in Friday’s preseason game against the Patriots. Starters usually go into the second quarter, then second stringers take over.
Molk’s ability to win a roster spot likely hinges on Vandervelde’s recovery timetable, which means Molk is squarely on the bubble right now, probably on the inside looking out for the moment.
But he’ll never believe he’s out of the running.
“If I ever say I'm not on the bubble I want you to slap me in the face,” he said. “Because I've settled and I don't ever want to settle.”