Becoming a fan favorite in Philadelphia is more than epic speeches, crop tops and pouring stiff. It’s not that those factors don’t play a role, but you have to get it done on the field too. For Jason Kelce, that hasn’t been a problem. Despite his well-rounded game, there’s been one area where he’s been particularly dominant.
For the second year in a row, Kelce has graded out as the best run blocking center in NFL. Pro Football Focus has also credited him with a top tier “run block success percentage” for the second year running. First, how is that calculated?
“All players on any given play are awarded a PFF grade on a scale of -2 to +2. Run-block success percentage calculates the percentage of snaps where a player earns a grade above 0 as a run blocker (Positively graded run-block snaps / All run-block snaps). Players with high run-block success percentages and low run-block loss percentages earn high 0-100 grades in PFF’s grading system.” - Pro Football Focus,
In 2017, no center came close to Kelce in this metric.
“Kelce put together a career performance across 18 games to pull the recognition he deserved and help his team hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
All leading to a career-high 91.3 overall grade, Kelce recorded a league-high 95.1 run-block grade and 24.7 run-block success percentage, the latter of which being four whole percentage points above the next center on the list. In simpler terms, Kelce was the best run-blocking center – if not the best run-blocker overall – last season, and even his most notable colleagues didn’t even come close to his run-game dominance.” - Austin Gayle
In 2018, Kelce came in second for run blocking success (14.82%), bested only by Atlanta Falcons’ center Alex Mack. Coming in second to Mack is nothing to cry over; he’s been one of the best centers in the league over his ten year career. It’s a good time to remind you that last year Kelce battled through a grade II MCL sprain, a broken foot and a torn elbow.
One factor that helps Kelce is that the coaching staff plays to his strengths. This means getting him out in space often, which is where he makes his best music.
I was recently asked to explain why it's beneficial having an athletic line like the Eagles have.. look at Jason Kelce get to Ray-Ray in space and you have your answer - pic.twitter.com/1xllt2PVKc— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) October 13, 2018
As a unit the Philadelphia Eagles’ struggled, ranking in the middle of the pack or bottom half in each of Football Outsiders’ handful of run blocking metrics. There were a few teammates around Kelce that suffered “down years” in this aspect, highlighted by the benching of Stefen Wisniewski.
The continued development of Isaac Seumalo and acclimation to the guard position by Halapoulivaati Vaitai will play big roles in the Eagles run game success in 2019. There’s also of the question of when they’ll get back Brandon Brooks from injury. With all those questions marks along the interior, Kelce’s consistency and superior play in all areas brings much needed stability.