Eagles’ Nakobe Dean concerns are misplaced heading into preseason

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Eagles 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)

He hasn’t played in a full game as the team’s MIKE linebacker but Nakobe Dean is already drawing the ire of Eagles analysts and fans alike.

When the Eagles drafted the Georgia linebacker as a third-round steal, the team understood that Dean’s calling card was as a physical specimen whose cerebral style of play meant that he would need some time to develop in a new defensive scheme. Now learning his second scheme in two years, Dean is being asked to shoulder full responsibility on the defense while showing the kind of quickness that had many comparing him to a first-round talent. That alone is enough for young players to need to go through an additional learning process on top of being the face of a defense at just 22 years old.

Yet with all that context added to his resume, Dean’s training camp has been less than satisfactory in the minds of those watching from the sideline. An ankle injury sidelined him for multiple days and in the days where he did participate, he didn’t “stand out enough” according to some.

Nakobe Dean has been a slow-burner at Eagles Training Camp

The problem with judging a linebacker in training camp is that the analysis ignores who the Eagles have become in training camp. When Nick Sirianni took the helm of the Birds in 2021, the team dedicated its practices to being less intense and physical.

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)

With Philadelphia instituting a more laid-back approach to practices, linebackers and even running backs aren’t truly allowed to stand out in key ways like the quarterback, receiver, or cornerback positions are. It means Dean’s inability to stand out could be more of an indication that he isn’t doing anything wrong, as opposed to making dominant plays at his position. Like an offensive lineman, it’s better to not be noticed you’re making plays until a key mistake is highlighted.

Even if Dean is not standing out as many have hoped, it may not be a bad thing in the eyes of their defensive coordinator.

“I believe in teaching on the field and learning that way and having guys learn through some mistakes, and so I think he’s doing a great job with that, and then really embracing it,” Sean Desai said last Friday.

There are more reasons to be excited than concerned

Fans have seen the type of player Dean is as well so it’s not like his play should come as a surprise. In Philadelphia’s Week 13 win over the Titans, Dean played in the fourth quarter and still racked up a team-high in tackles. Dean actually recorded 13 tackles last season in a backup role while also recording an elite Pro Football Focus rating of 78.7. He showed the physicality and speed in that fourth quarter against the Titans alone than what normal practices usually ask of him.

Saturday’s preseason game will be the first time the Eagles see their starting linebacker in a game setting as the leader of the defense. If Dean can make the correct plays and fly to the football, it won’t matter what the former Bulldog has looked like in practice.

As always, the game film will tell the tale of the tape for the Eagles at linebacker but it seems much of the concern at the moment seems simply misplaced.

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College football national championship eagles
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – JANUARY 10: Georgia Bulldogs ILB Nakobe Dean (17) lines up on defense during the Alabama Crimson Tide versus the Georgia Bulldogs in the College Football Playoff National Championship, on January 10, 2022, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)

Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire