Stoutland: Jurgens Has Traits, Knowledge For Right Guard
When Jeff Stoutland stops mid-sentence, it’s to make an important point.
Last Friday, when discussing Cam Jurgens’ candidacy as starting right guard, Stoutland started to discuss why former Eagles right guard Brandon Brooks wasn’t just a mammoth road grader who moved people because of sheer mass.
Stoutland, arguably the Eagles’ most important assistant coach and perhaps the franchise’s most significant overall coach, turned the conversation back to Jurgens, comparing his second-year lineman to the three-time Pro Bowl guard.
Then he paused, even asking the reporter to hold on mid-question, gesturing with his hands in typical Staten Island brashness. Like a Times Square traffic cop, Stoutland quickly detoured the discussion, this time going back to Brooks.
“One thing you don’t realize about Brandon Brooks is he’s got tremendous feet,” Stoutland educated. “He’s a great athlete. Foot and body quickness. Cam has that. You know he has that.”
Right now, Jurgens – chosen to be heir apparent to franchise cornerstone and multiple-time All Pro center Jason Kelce – is Stoutland’s preference at right guard. The high 2022 second-round pick, who played just two seasons of center at Nebraska after trading sides from tight end, has taken almost all the reps there.
His main challenger is rookie, third-rounder Tyler Steen, a former Alabama offensive tackle who’s played on the O-line longer than Jurgens but hasn’t played inside, an entirely different animal and a position that requires somewhat of a different skill-set than tackle.
Steen has taken some guard reps with the second string but also has played tackle at camp. The Eagles also just signed veteran Josh Andrews, a former Oregon State lineman and nine-year veteran who originally broke into the NFL with the Eagles during the Chip Kelly era and has played 48 games, starting nine of them.
Fourth-year lineman Jack Driscoll, who has played guard and tackle, is also in the mix but largely viewed as a very capable backup who’d be exposed if played too much at either position.
After watching backup center Brett Toth – a converted swing tackle/guard – whisk a few snaps over the quarterback’s head in practice late week, the Eagles thought wisely and inked Andrews, who has played center and started five games last year for the Saints.
There’s still plenty of time for the bigger Steen to push Jurgens for right guard, but Stoutland – who might be the only team’s only position coach with the clout to decide personnel – appears ready to commit to Jurgens.
“I know he was strong, but I didn’t know he was this [strong],” Stoutland said, “this” sounding more like “dis” in his unmistakable Noo Yawk accent.
“Because you don’t see it when you’re playing center, you’re sometimes uncovered,” he continued, describing how defenses, especially 4-3 fronts, don’t typically feature an interior tackle aligning directly across the center. “Now [at right guard] you’re covered. I’m impress with the power and strength of Cam. Very, very strong in here—his core.”
Stoutland went on to rave about Jurgens’ question-asking, his confidence – an obvious appeal to someone of Stoutland’s personality and stature – and understanding of the game.
Jurgens’ red-shirt rookie year of receiving Stoutland’s daily coaching while backing up Kelce and seeing very little action – he played 35 total snaps, less than 5% of the offense in 2022 – helped build the foundation for him to compete this summer at an entirely different position.
As for Steen, Stoutland is looking for “consistency,” which is typically the ask of rookies adjusting to new positions or schemes.
“It’s all new for him, I want to see the consistency,” Stoutland said, cautioning reporters about drawing long-term conclusions from just two week’s of camp. “I like what he’s doing. I really do. He’s doing a job job, but he’s got to stay consistent, and it’s gotta be every day.”
Steen, for his part, appears at peace with his development, with the understanding that moving from tackle to guard isn’t an overnight process.
For starters, Steen is adapting to lesser space to work with. The old “telephone booth” analogy comes to mind here. He’s also adjusting to different “landmarks” for guards compared to tackles.
“Landmarks is a big thing,” Steen said. “At tackle you have more space out there and at guard it’s a lot more constricted. So, landmarks in the run and pass have to be a little more tighter when you’re playing at guard and you gotta make sure you don’t drift and overset, because then then they could beat you inside.”
Steen auditioned at guard at the Senior Bowl, one reason the Eagles felt he could make the transition. His ability to play both positions will eventually benefit the team, even if he’s not a Week 1 starter.
“If you’re not a starting player right now you have to have swing value,” Stoutland said, “or you won’t be one of the eight players we take to the game.”
– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the “Inside the Birds” podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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