Eagles training camp: Cam Jurgens learning the ropes at guard and beefing up one rib eye at a time
Step aside, keto and paleo.
Three-hundred-and-three-pound Eagles interior lineman Cam Jurgens abided by his own diet philosophy as he looked to increase his strength in the offseason and into the early days of training camp.
“Eat what tastes good,” Jurgens explained Tuesday after the fourth day of training camp practice. “I had two rib eye steaks last night for dinner. Charles [Gaiters] in the cafeteria makes a mean rib eye.”
Jurgens, 23, is beefing up amid a transition from center to right guard. The Eagles selected him in the second round, No. 51 overall, out of Nebraska in the 2022 draft as the heir apparent to veteran center Jason Kelce. But when Kelce signed a one-year, $14.25 million contract to return to the Eagles for his 13th season and former starting right guard Isaac Seumalo departed for the Pittsburgh Steelers in free agency, a different vacancy opened up on the tenured offensive line.
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Through the first three days of camp, Jurgens has earned the entirety of the first-team reps in team drills in between Kelce and right tackle Lane Johnson. Head coach Nick Sirianni may take a look at 2019 undrafted free-agent signing Sua Opeta or 2023 third-round pick Tyler Steen at the spot in camp, but for now, the battle appears to be Jurgens’ to lose.
At 6-foot-3, and those 303 pounds, Jurgens is smaller than starting left guard Landon Dickerson (6-6, 332), but is a similar size to Seumalo (6-4, 303). So, regardless of his size, and the quantity of rib eyes he consumes, Jurgens is leaning on his athleticism to help him make the switch to guard.
“We do a lot of stuff where the guards go out and pull and I can get out there in open space in second, third level,” Jurgens said. “So I think that’s a good advantage of being a little lighter and a little more agile.”
Jurgens also has the advantage of being sandwiched in between two of the league’s best at their respective positions. After Jurgens’ reps in an offensive line drill on Tuesday, Kelce and Johnson took the time to share tips with their younger counterpart, imparting wisdom they’ve accumulated throughout a combined 22 years in the NFL.
Kelce acknowledged that there is a learning curve to adjust to when making the jump from center to guard, but he lauded Jurgens’ “tremendous skill set” and his early showing at the new position.
“For him, he’s getting used to guard, that he’s never played before,” Kelce said. “Not even in college. So there’s a little bit of differences there. You’re already off the ball, so you don’t have to work to get depth, kind of the same way you do at center. You’re more setting the point, the aggressor at guard as opposed to at center, I guess.”
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Lately, Jurgens said that Kelce has stressed the importance of playing fast and being confident as an offense. That ability to play freely at a new position will come with time for Jurgens, who participated in just his first padded practice as a right guard on Tuesday.
“I think a lot of it is knowing what you’re doing, then at the same time, just playing fast and confident,” Jurgens said. “I think we run a lot of good plays. We have a lot of good players, but nothing works if we ain’t going fast and we ain’t playing confident.”
Kelce and Johnson aren’t the only veterans guiding Jurgens along in the transition. Jurgens said he also has learned from defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who is going into his 12th season with the Eagles.
Cox provides a different perspective from Kelce and Johnson as a member of the defense. After going up against him in offensive line/defensive line one-on-ones on Tuesday, Cox pulled Jurgens aside and gave him feedback.
“He’ll tell me what he sees from my sets from the defensive lineman perspective and how he sees that I could do something a little bit better,” Jurgens said. “So it’s cool hearing it from that side and he’s been in the league for so long. He knows exactly what the weakness is and what he’s looking for.”
For now, Jurgens is focused on improving his communication with the rest of the offensive line, trying to get a little bit better in his new position each day. He’s still paying attention to the center position, both while observing Kelce on the field and in the meeting room, in case he ever needs to slide back over because of injury.
Soon enough, he could be eating up the starting snaps at right guard come Week 1 of the regular season. He may not have foreseen the transition when he was initially drafted by the Eagles, but he’s embracing the change nonetheless.
“At the end of the day, I’m not really a position player,” Jurgens said. “I’m trying to be a football player.”