Eagles top 25

Does Nakobe Dean even belong on most important Eagles list?

Nakobe Dean takes his spot on the list of most important Eagles of 2024.

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Over the next few weeks leading up to training camp, we’ll be counting down the top 25 most important Eagles for the 2024 season.

25. Brandon Graham
24. Nakobe Dean

Based on the five Eagles practices open to reporters this spring, Nakobe Dean shouldn’t even be on this list.

In those practices, it was Zack Baun playing next to Devin White as the two off-ball linebackers on the first-team defense. Dean was relegated to second team, at least an indication that he won’t be handed a starting gig under new defensive coordinator Vic Fango.

But it would be a real shame is Dean isn’t able to wrestle away that starting job. After all, he’s still just 23 and a few years ago was considered to be one of the biggest steals of the 2022 draft after captaining the Georgia Bulldogs to a National Championship.

As a rookie in 2022, Dean basically had a redshirt season on defense as the Eagles played T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White ahead of him. Last season was supposed to be Dean’s year but he played in just five games during an injury-plagued season and was just coming back from those injuries at spring practices.

It was clear at the Eagles’ year-end press conference that Dean was still in their plans, at least according to general manager Howie Roseman.

“I have a lot of belief, and I know Coach (Nick Sirianni) does, as well, in Nakobe Dean,” Roseman said in January. “I believe in the player. I believe in the person.

“We lost two linebackers at that spot, two good players from our Super Bowl team and we had Nakobe waiting in the wings. We drafted him for that role. Obviously, it didn’t work out perfectly for him this year. That doesn’t change the belief we have in the player.”

While the Eagles signed White to a one-year contract, it’s not like their other moves suggested that they’re writing off Dean. They signed Baun as a hybrid off-ball/edge rusher and then used a fifth-round pick on Jeremiah Trotter Jr. Perhaps one of those players could bump Dean but he should get the first crack at a starting job in Year 3 of his career.

Dean has been labeled by some as “injury prone” based on what happened to him last season but Dean said those were the first major injuries of his career. Despite his smaller frame (5-11, 231), Dean managed to be pretty durable during his time playing in the SEC. Of course, those size concerns and injury concerns were there when he lasted into the third round a few years ago.

If nothing else, it doesn’t seem like the Eagles are relying on Dean to be their top linebacker like they were going into the 2023 season. That job is reserved for White, who will presumably wear the green dot in this defense. Although, linebackers coach Bobby King said the two linebacker spots are, by design, interchangeable in this scheme.

It wasn’t that long ago that Eagles fans were really excited about Dean. One redshirt season and one injury-plagued season, it doesn’t seem like that’s the case anymore.

Has he noticed that?

“I don’t know,” Dean said this spring. “I ain’t really been listening to them. If they have, then it is what it is. I know I’ve been out so sight, out of mind because of the injury. I’m here now.”

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