The Eagles are pinning their hopes on Nakobe Dean again but would be wise to have a contingency plan.

Eagles Must Adopt A “Optimistic Realist” Mentality Alongside Young LB

The Eagles are relying on Nakobe Dean to lead them to victory in MLB once more, but it might be prudent to have a backup plan.

PHILADELPHIA: On the other side of the ball, uncertainty must be the prevailing theme if the Eagles are a highly talented offensive team.

And off-ball linebacker may be the position with the most unanswered questions. Unless someone decides to take a shot at the position on Day 2 of the 2017 NFL Draft, Philadelphia has penciled in Devin White and Nakobe Dean as the starting.
In the SEC, Dean and White were outstanding college athletes. The former Georgia team that won the 2021 national championship was the top linebacker in college football and the recipient of the Butkus Award. Because of his exceptional performance at LSU, White was selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft and won the same honor three years earlier. Before, White even attempted to sway Dean toward LSU.

Still, White has played a significant amount of NFL football. With just 34 defensive snaps to his name in his first season as a backup to the dependable T.J. Edwards, Dean is still just projected for the third year of his career. In 2023, Dean experienced two foot injuries that cut short his initial stint as the starting middle linebacker for the Eagles at just five games with four starts. The second injury necessitated surgery.

Dean began his rehabilitation with a Roll-A-Bout, progressed to a walking boot by February, and is currently anticipating being cleared completely in time for the May start of on-field work for the 2024 season.

“The mental side is always hard, but we talk about having a dawg mentality all the time and I feel like it starts with being mentally strong,” Dean stated. Being an optimistic realist, I maintain an optimistic outlook while being realistic about my circumstances.

“The only thing I continue to do is work and everything else will take care of itself.”

“Optimistic realist” is an excellent way to characterize the Eagles’ future with Dean.
It’s acceptable to put more money on a player you think has a lot of potential, but you also need to have a backup plan in place in case the undersized Dean’s durability becomes a problem.

Due to concerns from some clubs regarding a shoulder ailment that the New York Giants made public, Dean was selected in the third round of the 2022 draft. According to a team source, Dean has since had trouble finding comfortable cleats because of his foot troubles.

Then there’s the obstacle of Vic Fangio becoming Dean’s fourth defensive coordinator in three years, following Jonathan Gannon’s departure and the disastrous replacement of Sean Desi by Matt Patricia last season.

“You watch film and you see his defenses over the years and how they evolved and different things they do,” Dean explained when describing his shift in perspective to that of Fangio. “Of course, we haven’t been able to talk ball yet, but just knowing the type of coach he is, I’m just excited to get ready to work with him, excited to get ready to just learn the scheme, and take it as my own.”

Regarding the scheme, the good news is that Gannon and Desai were essentially Fangio’s original cover bands. Although there will be some differences in nomenclature, the core concepts should be understood.

Another addition is Bobby King, the linebacker coach, who comes from Tennessee to take D.J. Eliot’s place. Eliot was a one-and-done mentor who left with Gannon to go to Arizona.
Twenty-three-year-old Dean leads a group that includes White, who is attempting to turn around his career after it failed in Tampa Bay, veteran LB3 Oren Burks, a reliable special-teamer and backup arriving from San Francisco, athletic 2023 undrafted free agent Ben VanSumeren, and Carolina’s 2022 fourth-round selection Brandon Smith.

Dean provided a brief reconnaissance report:
“We [are] all kind of high-energy guys who love ball, who [are] going to take whatever is thrown at us,” Dean stated. “We take no offense at it. We will simply accept it as it is.

Dean is predicted to be the strongest of those oak trees by optimism.

“I know I may have been out of sight, out of mind because of the injuries, so I’m here now,” he said.

Realistic thinking has to seep in behind the scenes at the NovaCare Complex to indicate that it might not be such a bad idea to add a Day 2 oak at off-ball LB in the draft.

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