Eagles observations: Figuring out Nakobe Dean's role to start the season

·7 min read

In Roob's Observations: Figuring out Dean's initial role originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Figuring out Nakobe Dean's role, an appreciation for a long-time Eagle who won't be here much longer, the latest Jeff Stoutland project and lots more in another Roob's 10 Random Eagles Training Camp Observations!

Here's a bonus observation: The Lions are 16 days away. Pretty soon, these Observations will count!

1. It’s not that Nakobe Dean has had a bad training camp. He hasn’t. It's just that T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White have been clearly more productive at the off-ball linebacker spots in training camp than Dean, and when the season starts, I expect Dean to have some sort of role on defense but I imagine Edwards and White will get the bulk of the snaps at the MIKE and WILL spots, with Davion Taylor and maybe even Shaun Bradley possibly also in the mix. Now, White is on a one-year deal and Dean is here for the long term, so I would think if things begin to click as the season progresses, Dean's snaps will gradually increase. But heck, I never thought we would get to the point where we’re talking about the Eagles having too many good linebackers.

MORE: Smith stronger and faster despite his Wawa addiction

2. In the span of eight days, the Eagles flew to Cleveland, held two long, hot, physical practices against the Browns, faced the Browns in a preseason game, flew to Philly, flew to Miami, held one long, hot physical practice against the Dolphins, then practiced again in the extreme heat and humidity by themselves. That’s a lot. By the end of Thursday’s practice, those guys were fighting exhaustion and just trying to focus on your assignment is challenging in those conditions. And for anybody who thinks Nick Sirianni’s training camps are easy, this last week has been anything but. It’s been a brutal grind, and it sure seems like this group did an excellent job fighting through it. Getting in productive work when the conditions are difficult is what training camp is all about.

3. Boston Scott has to be one of the Eagles’ most underrated players. All he does is make plays whenever he gets a chance, never complains when he doesn’t get a chance, and gets in the end zone at a ridiculous rate. Scott has 301 career touches and 15 TDs. Only seven running backs in NFL history with 301 or fewer touches have more TDs. That’s insane. He’s one of only 10 NFL running backs over the last three years with at least 200 carries and 50 catches to average at least 4.4 yards per carry and 8.0 yards per catch.  Since 2019, he ranks 63rd in the NFL in carries but 31st in touchdowns. His 80 percent catch percentage is highest by an Eagles running back since the NFL began tracking targets in 1992. The dude is efficient, productive, durable and consistent. He’s a tremendous leader, never grumbles about his role and loves working with the younger backs. Originally acquired as a barely noticed signing off the Saints’ practice squad in December of 2018. A terrific Eagle, a valuable backup and an underrated Howie Roseman acquisition.

4. In Super Bowl LII, the Eagles’ three running backs netted 255 scrimmage yards. LeGarrette Blount averaged 6.4 yards per carry and rushed for 90 yards, Jay Ajayi averaged 6.3 yards on nine carries. And Corey Clement had 100 receiving yards. None of the three ever achieved any of those things again the rest of their careers.

5. On the one hand, getting a 6th-round pick in 2024 for a 2nd-round pick in 2019 is hardly worth celebrating. But you can’t get any more Howie Roseman than trading J.J. Arcega-Whiteside to the Seahawks for Ugo Amadi, then trading Amadi nine days later to the Titans for a 6th-round pick. The Eagles were going to release JJAW but now they have a 6th-round pick and although it’s uncommon to hit on a 6th-round pick it does happen. Jason Kelce, Quez Watkins, Wilbert Montgomery and Andy Harmon were all 6th-round picks, not to mention guys like Shaun Bradley, Tarron Jackson and Grant Calcaterra. Howie took the Eagles from getting nothing for JJAW to having a chance to land a player, and that’s not easy to do.

6. Jack Anderson is the latest example of why Jeff Stoutland is the greatest position coach in Eagles history. Anderson played at Texas Tech, drafted by the Bills last year in the seventh round, released at final cuts, added to Bills practice squad, signed by the Eagles a few weeks later, spent the year on the active roster learning and watching, played seven snaps all year other than the meaningless season finale against the Cowboys. When people started putting together their 53-man roster projections in July, I doubt if anybody included Anderson. Then you start watching the kid at practice every day and … he’s not bad! You’re like … Where did this come from? Anderson is a 6-foot-5, 315-pound interior lineman, only 23 years old, and along with Sua Opeta he’s now one of two 2nd-team guards, and he can also play center. He played 52 snaps Sunday in Cleveland and really battled. That whole second o-line looks really good. I’ll bet they’re better than at least a dozen starting NFL offensive lines. And Anderson really looks like the latest unknown, late-round or undrafted afterthought that Stout has molded into an NFL player. The guy is amazing.

7. The most combined passing and rushing touchdowns by an Eagles quarterback before his 25th birthday is 40 by Randall Cunningham – 32 passing, eight rushing. Jalen Hurts, who’ll be 24 the entire 2022 season, already has 35.

8. DeVonta Smith will never be built like A.J. Brown, and he’ll never be the same type of physical receiver as Brown, but you can see that Smith has been watching Brown this summer and picking up little tips about how to be physical with cornerbacks and how to aggressively attack the ball in the air. Smith may be skinny, but he’s a very tough dude, and he doesn’t back down. You have to appreciate that Smith isn’t content just being some sort of finesse receiver and is working hard to incorporate new dimensions into his game to make him even more dangerous.

9. Quez Watkins last year became the Eagles’ first wide receiver drafted in the 6thround or later with 600 receiving yards in a season since Harold Carmichael in 1981. He also became the first 6th-round pick league-wide with 600 yards in a season before his 24th birthday since Antonio Brown in 2011. Only five others have done it in the last 35 years (former Eagle Floyd Dixon, Marques Colston, Pierre Garcon, Brandon Gibson and Brown). Gibson, who did it for the Rams in 2010, was the Eagles’ 6th-round pick in 2009.

READ: Training camp obs: Eagles wrap things up by themselves

10. A Greg Ward appreciation. We’re likely approaching the end of Ward’s tenure with the Eagles. Ward hasn’t practiced since Aug. 1 because of a lingering toe injury, and with the Eagles’ depth at wide receiver, there’s no way they can carry him on the 53 with final cuts Tuesday. So if they IR him – or release him with an injury settlement – his days with the Eagles are almost certainly over. Ward first joined the Eagles in 2017 as an undrafted rookie college quarterback trying to convert to wide receiver, and he’s among nine remaining players on the roster with a Super Bowl ring. The Eagles released him six times his first three seasons, including twice from the practice squad. Ward was never a great player, but he always gave the Eagles everything he had, and he was the Eagles’ leading receiver – as a practice squad call-up – down the stretch in the 2019 playoff season (28-for-254 the final six games) and again in 2020, when he led the Eagles with 53 receptions and six TD catches. His 68 percent catch ratio – 130 targets, 88 catches – is highest by any Eagle WR since the league began tracking targets 30 years ago. I’m a sucker for these stories of persistence and determination. Of a guy carving out a nice career through sheer work ethic and want-to. Ward helped this team win a lot of games and a lot of big games the last few years. There isn’t any room for him anymore, but he’ll always have a spot in the Eagles’ Overachieving Hall of Fame.