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Examining the Eagles' battle at linebacker this summer


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Examining the Eagles' battle at linebacker this summer

The Eagles lost both starting linebackers from 2022, setting up an intriguing position battle this summer

By Dave Zangaro  Published July 17, 2023

We’re getting close to Eagles training camp so we’re taking a look at some notable camp competitions.

We already looked at RG, RB, WR3, S, CB, P and QB3.

Up today: Linebacker

Just like the safety position, the Eagles are replacing both starters from a year ago. Very early during free agency, T.J. Edwards agreed to a multi-year deal to join the Chicago Bears. And then Kyzir White moved on, reuniting with Jonathan Gannon in Arizona. That left the Eagles light at the linebacker position and they haven’t spent many major resources to upgrade since then. So it’s still possible that this position isn’t yet finished.

Let’s look at the players:

Nakobe Dean
Age: 22
Experience: Year 2
Size: 5-foot-11, 231 pounds

Many folks heralded the Eagles’ selection of Dean in the third round last year as the steal of the draft and then he played just 34 snaps on defense all year. While Dean became a core special teams player that wasn’t exactly what many fans had envisioned when the Eagles drafted the standout leader of the National Championship Georgia defense. But the Eagles started the summer with Edwards and White in front of him and that never changed and those guys stayed healthy.

Now, it’s time to see what Dean can really do in the NFL. Because there are a lot of questions about the linebacker position but Dean is the one guy who seems very likely to have a huge role. During OTAs, he had the green dot in Sean Desai’s new defense, which is a major role in any defense. Speaking during the spring, Dean seemed extremely confident about stepping into this role. Heck, he said he would have been ready for it last year but knew he had to be patient.

Nicholas Morrow
Age: 27
Experience: Year 6
Size: 6-foot, 216 pounds

The only notable addition the Eagles made to the linebacker room this offseason was signing Morrow to a one-year deal that didn’t include any guaranteed money. So they brought in a guy with starting experience but definitely didn’t commit to him. Morrow spent the first four years of his career with the Raiders before missing the entire 2021 season. Morrow returned in 2022 with the Bears and started all 17 games and finished with 116 tackles and 11 tackles for loss. Although it is worth pointing out that the Bears let Morrow walk and then signed two free agent linebackers in Edwards and Tremaine Edmunds.

If nothing else, though, Morrow gives the Eagles some stability. He’s certainly not the best linebacker in the NFL — he ranked 64th out of 81 in 2022, according to PFF — but he at least offers the Eagles an option with NFL experience at a position where they don’t have much experience. Morrow has played in 79 career games with 46 starts. The rest of the linebackers on the roster have a combined eight NFL starts between them.

Christian Elliss
Age: 24
Experience: Year 2
Size: 6-foot-3, 231 pounds

The former Idaho Vandal had to fight his way onto the Eagles roster in 2022 and then made the most of his opportunities on special teams. He really did make a difference on special teams and it’s fair to wonder if that success would translate to the defensive side of the ball. In seven games the last two years, he’s played a grand total of 29 defensive snaps. But the Eagles really seem to like Elliss and he made a couple splash plays in OTAs this spring. If he can do that again in training camp, he might be able to challenge Morrow for a job.

Davion Taylor
Age: 24
Experience: Year 3
Size: 6-foot-1, 230 pounds

We shouldn’t forget about Taylor. The third-round pick from 2020 didn’t even make the Eagles roster last year and was instead on the practice squad. But this is a guy who started six consecutive games for the Eagles in 2021 before suffering an injury that ended his season. The shame for Taylor was that he was finally starting to look like a linebacker with those much-needed reps. Taylor clearly has athleticism and ability but is still a relative newcomer to the linebacker position. The problem for him is that Taylor clearly needs more reps to get better but the Eagles are a team with Super Bowl aspirations and he might not be good enough to play for them right now.

The rest

The Eagles don’t have a ton of linebackers on the roster. Shaun Bradley has been here for several years but has never really gotten a chance to play much on defense. At this point, it's pretty clear the Eagles view him as a special teamer and one of their better ones. The only other off-ball linebackers on the team are UDFA Ben VanSumeren, who is freakishly athletic but raw, and former edge player Kyron Johnson. Johnson was always listed as a linebacker but was a SAM linebacker behind Haason Reddick and Patrick Johnson last season. During OTAs, Kyron Johnson was lining up as an off-ball ‘backer. We’ll see how he looks there in training camp. VanSumeren is intriguing too because of his athleticism. But without a ton of linebacker experience — he began his career on offense — VanSumeren might be tabbed for the practice squad.


This position doesn’t feel completely finished. Remember when the Eagles added C.J. Gardner-Johnson through a trade to bolster the safety position after training camp last year? I wouldn’t rule that out at linebacker this summer. But there’s also no rush at this point. The Eagles might get these guys on the field and then reassess. For now, Dean is the most likely starter and then the other are fighting for the job next to him.


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I still don’t think they can to in to the year with those LBs. Most of us like Dean but he didn’t play last year and we don’t know what to expect. Morrow is solid but he’s not spectacular and Ellis flashed but more on STs. They’ve got to add a good LB otherwise it’ll be an area of the defense that teams exploit.

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4 hours ago, UK_EaglesFan89 said:

I still don’t think they can to in to the year with those LBs. Most of us like Dean but he didn’t play last year and we don’t know what to expect. Morrow is solid but he’s not spectacular and Ellis flashed but more on STs. They’ve got to add a good LB otherwise it’ll be an area of the defense that teams exploit.

You said it ... we don't know what to expect (with any of them really).  For the most part they are all unknowns and with a new DC who will likely be modifying the scheme to a degree it is hard to know with any certainty what these guys can do.  I wouldn't be in a rush to sign anyone else at this point ... I'd give them the summer (TC, preseason games) to see what they look like.  If the unit looks to be a trainwreck come cutdown day then perhaps look to add someone then.  It should be noted that this discussion really involves only 2 positions ... MLB and WLB.  SAM is set with Reddick (with what appears to be solid depth behind him ... Johnson and Smith).  Dean played MLB at a high level during his collegiate career so hopefully he can jump in after sitting a year and pick up where he left off.  If he can do so it is just WLB that is a concern ... there should be enough players in the mix that one will emerge as at least serviceable (fingers crossed).  

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I don't feel that we can go into the season like this at LB and Safety... I;m sure Howie has something but just don't think top name guys....would I love Queens or Budda , sure but

Howie has to look further down the road also for the cap.

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