Time to see what Nakobe can do; Dean on most important list originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
Over the next few weeks leading up to training camp, we’ll be counting down the top 25 most important Eagles for the 2023 season.
25. Nolan Smith
24. Quez Watkins
23. Kenny Gainwell
22. Marcus Mariota
21. Reed Blankenship
20. Brandon Graham
19. D'Andre Swift
18. Avonte Maddox
17. Cam Jurgens
16. Fletcher Cox
15. Landon Dickerson
14. Jordan Davis
13. Nakobe Dean
As a rookie in 2022, Nakobe Dean basically had a redshirt season, playing a grand total of 34 snaps on defense.
Talk about a huge jump.
Not only is Dean expected to play in 2023, but he’s in line to be the Eagles’ MIKE linebacker with the green dot for communication and the linebacker who doesn’t leave the field. It’s time to see if the Eagles really got a steal in the third round last year.
Because when the Eagles landed Dean out of Georgia with the No. 83 pick last spring, it was heralded as the steal of the draft. But he was firmly behind T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White for his entire rookie season. Edwards and White both had strong training camps and then stayed healthy during the season, which kept Dean on the bench. And then-defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon never carved out a role for the rookie.
As a rookie, Dean was mainly a special teams contributor and he took his role seriously even though he obviously wanted to be out there on defense too.
“You want to play. I wanted to play,” Dean said this spring. “Did I feel like I was ready? Yeah. But at the same time, we was rolling as a team.
“The main thing is winning games. Over everything is to win games, win championships. But sitting back and playing my role and doing whatever I could do to make this team better was my main focus.”
But this year, Edwards and White walked as free agents and the only notable addition at the position came when the Eagles signed Nicholas Morrow to a one-year deal. So it’s pretty apparent the Eagles are expecting a lot from Dean in Year 2.
Dean, 22, has high expectations for himself too.
“It just shows that they’re ready for me to step up,” Dean said. “I feel like I’m ready to step up. I’ve been ready. But as we do it now, it’s time for me to put out whatever I can do for this team to win ultimately.”
Dean (6-0, 225) is an undersized linebacker even by modern-day standards. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons he lasted until the third round. But the Eagles watched him lead the Georgia Bulldogs to a National Championship a couple years ago and hope he’ll be that kind of presence in the middle of Sean Desai’s defense in 2023.
“He has a chip on his shoulder,” Jordan Davis said. “He always talks about it. And that’s what drives him. And just seeing him get his opportunity and for us to have an opportunity to play together, to be on the field at the same time, that’s amazing.”