In a shortened offseason in 2011, Jason Kelce had himself an impressive rookie season, considering the circumstances. He started all 16 games, and played every snap in the first 15 games, missing just 6 in the season finale against the Redskins. Heading into the season, most pundits pointed to the Eagles’ offensive line as the glaring potential trouble spot, and while the RG position was a mess for the first few games, the OL as a whole was one of the few bright spots on an otherwise wildly disappointing team. Kelce was a major question mark, being a rookie 6th round draft pick out of Cincinnati, but he played much better than expected, and became a favorite of legendary offensive line coach Howard Mudd.
Earlier this offseason, Les Bowen of Philly.com wrote about a meeting that Howard Mudd set up between Kelce and his Mudd’s former protege, Jeff Saturday, in which the two players watched film together.
“He told me how to watch film,” Kelce said Wednesday. “Every single time we’ve watched film in the past, it’s been, throw on a game, watch the guy play for a little bit, try to figure out — all right, he’s a big, strong guy, he likes to bullrush. [Saturday felt that] guys I’ve struggled with in 3-4s, like [Dallas noseguard] Jay Ratliff, don’t just study about what type of player he is, diagnose everything, down and distancewise. A lot of defenses will be in situations, down and distance, that will give away tendencies for a pass rush. Study their stances … if you can study the little details about a defensive player [you'll be prepared]. He said, ‘I’d rather play Jay Ratliff, a guy I’ve watched 16 games on, than him get hurt and a see guy come in who hasn’t played ever before in the NFL and you’ve got no film of him.’ He studies it that much, to where he gets comfortable. Come gametime, it doesn’t matter how good the guy is, he already knows everything about him.”
That’s not the first time Kelce has mentioned Jay Ratliff by name. I remember last year, in the locker room after the first Eagles-Cowboys matchup on Sunday night, I was there when Kelce was answering questions about the game, and he said that Jay Ratliff was the best player he ever had to block, a sentiment that he has since reiterated. Ratliff is in Kelce’s head, and he should be. I went back to the tape to look at Kelce vs Ratliff in the first Eagles-Cowboys game last year, and Ratliff dominated. A short sampling:
Here the Eagles run their patented trap play that has been killing Dallas for the past two years. Ratliff blows up Kelce so far into the backfield that Kelce knocks into Clay Harbor, who is coming across to trap DeMarcus Ware. However, Ware runs himself way out of the play and LeSean McCoy gets about 20 anyway:
Continued after the jump…
Here, Ratliff gets instant pressure on Michael Vick, who is able to get rid of the ball quickly to a wide open Brent Celek.
Here again, Kelce whiffs on Ratliff, who gets instant pressure on Vick and forces Vick to scramble. Vick gets the first down anyway.
And finally, Ratliff gets quick pressure one more time, forcing Vick to scramble and take another hit.
Four dominating plays… all in the first 16 minutes of that game… and unfortunately for Dallas, all positive results for the Eagles.
Jay Ratliff is a specimen. As an undersized NT, most people think of him as a player who utilizes quickness to beat his opponents, but here we see him using his underrated power to beat the equally undersized Kelce.
I’ll be interested in watching that matchup again this year. If Kelce keeps getting beat like this by Ratliff, it is unlikely that the Eagles will somehow continue to get positive gains.