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Isaac Seumalo back at center and finding comfort in an old spot

Isaac Seumalo began 2017 as a starter before being benched in Week 3. Now back "home" at center, he is finding comfort in being uncomfortable.

In the Eagles' 2017 regular-season finale, Isaac Seumalo got time center, a spot where had hadn't played in a competitive game since his sophomore year of college.
In the Eagles' 2017 regular-season finale, Isaac Seumalo got time center, a spot where had hadn't played in a competitive game since his sophomore year of college.Read moreCLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer

Isaac Seumalo began 2017 as a starter — the then-second-year guard played all 140 snaps in the Eagles' opening two games at Washington and Kansas City.

Come Week 3, Seumalo was on the bench. The 2016 third-round selection would see the field for just 167 more plays over the remainder of the season.

But Seumalo is back "home" this year, shifting from guard to center, the spot where he started 23 games over the course of his freshman and sophomore seasons at Oregon State. And although Thursday was a bit of a shaky start, Seumalo is finding comfort in being uncomfortable.

"They kind of throw me all over, so it's center for now," Seumalo said. "But at the same time, I kind of like that, being able to play everywhere, even if I'm not established at one spot."

Seumalo's opportunities were limited between Weeks 3 and 13. He was twice inactive and got zero snaps three other times. Even when Seumalo got a chance at redemption in Los Angeles Week 14, filling in for an injured Stephen Wisniewski, he showed little improvement upon his early-season woes.

So when the Eagles returned for OTAs in late May, the call was made to move Seumalo back to center, the spot where he first found his footing in Corvallis, Ore.

"He's very cerebral," Wisniewski said of Seumalo. "He's got a lot of potential. He's got a lot of ability athletically, super smart. … He's got the right mindset that he's always trying to learn."

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After Friday's practice, Seumalo stayed on the field for almost 15 extra minutes, working alongside reserve lineman Ian Park as the pair took snaps with quarterback Nate Sudfeld.

Although Seumalo has experience with the position, there's certainly rust to shake off after not playing center for essentially five years.

When asked where he wanted to improve the most the next weeks, Seumalo put it matter-of-factly: "I want to make sure my snaps are good."

Yet Wisniewski, who played in the middle all of 2016 with Jacksonville, acknowledged there is much more that goes into being an effective center.

"Playing center is hard," he said. "You've got so much on your plate — looking at the defense, making calls, telling everyone else what to do, and you've got to think about blocking this giant guy that's right in front of your face. And then, oh yeah, you've got to snap the ball."

Seumalo shouldn't have too much pressure as he transitions spots as, barring an unforeseen circumstance, Jason Kelce will be back in his usual place in the middle of the Eagles' offensive line on Sept. 6. Other than 2012 when he tore his ACL and MCL in Week 2, Kelce has missed just four games since 2011.

That means Seumalo will have little choice but to lean on the resiliency he showed to right guard Brandon Brooks last season after being benched.

"It's all mental, man, and you've got to know your stuff really well," Seumalo said. "You've got to be super confident — you can't have any doubts making calls out there."

Although Kelce remains under contract through 2020, injuries are never out of the question. And if Seumalo gets a chance back in the spotlight this season, don't expect him to look like as much of an understudy.

"From day 1 … he was always comfortable making the calls and knowing what's going on," Brooks said. "He's like a younger Kelce. They both smart, both super athletic — I have to give it to Kelce, he's fast, but Isaac's not far behind."

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