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Dean ready for expanded role after quiet rookie season


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Dean ready for expanded role after quiet rookie season


Thirty-four snaps.

That’s all Nakobe Dean played on defense as a rookie last season for the Eagles during their Super Bowl season. It was basically a redshirt year for the former Georgia captain.

"You want to play. I wanted to play,” Dean said after a spring workout on Wednesday. "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.”

The Eagles won 14 games in the regular season in 2022, two more in the playoffs and nearly pulled out a win in Super Bowl LVII, all with Dean playing his role as a special teams contributor. Dean took that role seriously as a rookie but as he enters Year 2, it is about to increase drastically.

Now, Dean’s the guy.

Starting last spring, the Eagles had T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White as their two starting linebackers and neither player did anything to lose their jobs and they stayed healthy. Dean was the top backup but Edwards and White were clearly ahead of him all year.

But in free agency, Edwards left for Chicago and White left for Arizona, leaving a huge vacancy in the middle of the Eagles’ defense under new coordinator Sean Desai. The most obvious guy to fill the middle linebacker position? It’s not even a question. It’s Dean.

Because even after losing Edwards and White, the Eagles didn’t scramble to replace them. They added veteran Nicholas Morrow in free agency but that’s it. Even if they make another move or too, it seems very clear that the Eagles are ready for Dean to take over.

"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.”

Even though Dean was a third-round pick last year, he was the leader of the 2021 National Championship team at Georgia and many thought he’d be a first-round pick. He eventually slid all the way to No. 83 overall and the Eagles grabbed him in a move that was heralded as the steal of the draft.

It might finally start to pay off for the Birds in 2023.

So why did Dean slide so far in the draft? Part of it might be his size. He’s listed at just 5-foot-11, 231 pounds. There was also some talk about injuries being a reason for the tumble. But Dean played in all 20 games (regular season and playoffs) as a rookie, mostly on special teams.

As Dean takes over a starting role in 2023, he does so under new defensive coordinator Desai. While the terminology has changed, Dean didn’t make it seem like the learning curve would be too steep for him.

He didn’t play much as a rookie but Dean was pretty good in limited action. In 34 snaps on defense, Dean had 6 tackles, including a TFL. And on special teams, he had 7 tackles, the second-highest total on the team.

"I learned a lot from the two guys that was in front of me,” Dean said of Edwards and White. "You learn different thought processes of defense. Where I came from in college and where they came from and how different people look at different things on defense. I learned everything from little techniques to little things on how the league runs, how offenses run in the league. Everything like that you just learn throughout the season, definitely with the long season last year.”

During the spring, Dean has been getting used to working with the rest of the Eagles’ defense. He said learning how the defensive linemen in front of him play is a big deal and that might be helped out by having two former Bulldogs in Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter, with whom he has plenty of familiarity.

As he prepares for an expanded role, Dean has been focused all offseason on getting better.

"It’s continuing to improve,” Dean said. "One thing a high school coach told me, ‘You’re only getting better or getting worse.’ There’s no staying the same. Ever since the Super Bowl, I ain’t been doing nothing other than getting better. I feel like I’m a better player in all aspects of my game.”


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We better hope he’s ready to roll this year. He’s a talented player so there’s hope he can fill the gap left by Edwards and White. But if he isn’t ready then we are in big big trouble. LB is always a weak spot for us but if Dean struggles this may be the worst group we’ve had.

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I think he’s going to be a really good LB for the Birds. Looking forward to see him get a lot of meaningful snaps.

Would like to see Christian Ellis get some more reps too at LB. See what he’s got. Could be that "diamond in the rough” type of player.

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