Eagles LB Coach D.J. Eliot is hoping that familiarity will help push Davion Taylor

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PHILADELPHIA, PA – DECEMBER 22: Philadelphia Eagles helmet sits on a cart during the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagle on December 22, 2019, at Lincoln Financial Filed in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

The NFL journey for the Eagles fourth-year linebacker Davion Taylor has been filled with forks and knives. Forked roads, and unplanned surgeries. Taylor was actually starting to assert himself as a starter prior to tearing up his knee in 2021.

Two years later, following an uneventful season on the practice squad, the former third-round pick enters the 2023 campaign firmly on the roster bubble. It’s a lesson in the harsh reality that is today’s NFL. If there is a beacon of hope for Taylor, it comes in the form of Eagles new linebackers coach D.J. Eliot who actually served as his defensive coordinator in 2018 at the University of Colorado.

They were only together for one season in Boulder but the results were tangible. Taylor recorded 75 tackles (12 for loss), along with one sack and six tackles for no gain, on 641 defensive snaps in 12 games (10 starts). His 11 third-down stops and 11 quarterback pressures were second on the squad, including one fumble recovery which he returned for a touchdown.

So, yes, the familiarity is there — if Eliot can once again draw the talent out of his former prized college pupil.

“I know what type of person he is. I know what type of player he is,” Eliot said. “I know some of his strengths and some of his weaknesses, so it’s definitely helped.”

D.J. Eliot: ‘Number One Thing is Tackling’

Cleveland Browns quarterback Joshua Dobbs (15) is stopped by Philadelphia Eagles safety Andre Chachere (21), linebacker Nakobe Dean (17) and cornerback Josh Jobe (38) short of a touchdown on a run during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Cleveland, Sunday, Aug. 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

The Eagles went through spurts in 2022 where they were noticeably sloppy with their tackling. Guys whiffing on tackles should never happen in the NFL, especially if that team wants to be taken seriously as a Super Bowl contender. Shockingly, the Eagles were ranked dead-last in tackling after nine weeks last season — they had 82 missed tackles despite owning an 8-0 record prior to Week 10, according to Pro Football Focus. Then, they added Ndamukong Suh and Linval Joseph to help fix the issue. Which they mostly did.

Looking back at the problem, some of the burden has to be placed on former Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. Well, he’s gone. And Sean Desai and D.J. Eliot have already gone on record with their intentions to nip the tackling thing in the bud.

“All the things that make a great linebacker are the things that we’re emphasizing this offseason, with the number one thing being tackling,” Eliot said. “To be a great linebacker, you have to be a great tackler, and so we’re really working hard at making sure we’re working drills that put those guys in position to make plays, and to make plays to be great tacklers.”

Watch Out for Eagles New Starter Nakobe Dean

PHILADELPHIA, PA – AUGUST 02: Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Nakobe Dean (17) enters the field during training camp on August 2, 2022 at the Novacare Complex in Philadelphia, PA (Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire)

All eyes are on second-year man Nakobe Dean as he gets set to take over the starting job at middle linebacker. He’s already been impressing his teammates at OTAs while calling the plays out and wearing the green dot. He has all the makings of the next Jeremiah Trotter, including the attitude.

Listen to what he told new linebackers coach D.J. Eliot during their first phone call:

“Right when I got hired I called all the linebackers,” Eliot said. “I called them all and I talked to Nakobe for about five minutes and I was really trying to get to know him and he was like, ‘yea, yea, that’s great, Coach, can you get me the playbook?’ He is very, very serious about it. You know what I mean? He’s a student of the game. And that was my first impression of him. He was here to learn. And he wanted to get started right away.”

Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire