Perhaps I jinxed it when I said the Eagles have been incredibly healthy during Nick Sirianni’s Training Camps. Over the last two days, the team has endured a pair of injury scares at the linebacker position. The good news is that everything seems to be okay with both Nakobe Dean and Patrick Johnson. The bad news is that the kelly green-tinted glasses given to fans this offseason might have masked a real lack of depth at a position that always seems to be neglected.
The Eagles and the battle of not paying linebackers: A war for the ages
The Eagles have done a fantastic job of building up young linebackers. Alex Singleton, Kamu Grugier-Hill, and T.J Edwards, are just three names who spring to mind when thinking about Howie Roseman’s ‘moneyball’ antics at the position. It felt like the winds of change were finally blowing last offseason when the esteemed GM took a punt on Georgia’s Nakobe Dean, whose draft stock tanked due to injury concerns.
Fast forward to 2023 and Nakobe Dean figures to be the heartbeat of the defense. The former Georgia Bulldog has been the starting MIKE for the majority of the offseason, giving fans some solace that there is once again a linebacker they can hang their hat on…kind of.
The injury scare to Dean acted as a stark reminder that the Eagles are far from having an accomplished linebacking corps. Only Shaun Bradley sits behind Nakobe Dean on the depth chart at MIKE. While Haason Reddick has been dealing with groin soreness, Nolan Smith has been the leading SAM linebacker, and Christian Elliss was today’s starting WILL. If there is anything today has shown it’s that this is a top-heavy positional group that can very quickly go from riches to rags in a few unlucky seconds during the regular season.
What should the Eagles do next?
So, what’s the fix? The Eagles could throw the kitchen sink to land 23-year-old Patrick Queen from Baltimore, or Devin White from Tampa Bay. But, that would only really place a ceiling over the head of Nakobe Dean. They ideally need a plug-in free agent to act as an insurance policy, but there just aren’t that many left.
Rashaan Evans is arguably the most appealing. He had 159 tackles a year ago, but isn’t exactly the best coverage linebacker which could be problematic unless Desai decides to go DB-heavy and make use of Sydney Brown and Kelee Ringo, which, in my opinion, is optimal anyway. He’s also an Alabama alum who won a National Championship with Jalen Hurts and DeVonta Smith.
Deion Jones is also a name that’s surprisingly still on the market. The 28-year-old has a lot of athletic upside and was fun to watch in Atlanta. He could at least give Nakobe Dean a push for the starting MIKE role, but more importantly, act as servicable depth.
When it comes down to it, the Eagles simply don’t value the linebacker position and who am I to argue with Howie Roseman’s philosophies? The Birds have been to two Super Bowls since 2017, winning one of them, and have done so without having a stalwart linebacker. But there’s a balance.
If Nakobe Dean, who already had injury concerns coming out of college, or literally any other starting linebacker was to go down, the Birds have very little in the way of a backup plan. Perhaps that doesn’t matter, but maybe it does. Either way, the Eagles are running out of time to find a quick fix with the teams’ preseason debut now only 8 days away.
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