September 16, 2023   5 MIN READ

Morrow In The Middle

From Practice Squad To Starter In 96 Hours


PHILADELPHIA – Not until Eagles practice squad linebacker Nicholas Morrow found his name written in black on the special teams board inside the NovaCare Complex earlier this week did he realize he’d be activated for Thursday’s game.

For the better part of the prior 10 days, Morrow had grown accustomed to seeing his name inked in purple, a distinction intended to distinguish members of the practice squad from those on the active roster.

Morrow’s promotion resulted from a debilitating foot injury sustained in the season opener by fellow linebacker Nakobe Dean, who was placed on the team’s short-term injured reserve list.

“Honestly, I didn’t even know [Nakobe] was hurt that bad until I walked in the building,” Morrow said after Thursday’s game against the Vikings, a 34-28 Eagles win.

“I saw that he was hurt, but I didn’t know to what extent. And obviously, they had had some talks. But I didn’t know really until the meeting.”

Nic Morrow

GETTY IMAGES: Eagles LB Nick Morrow went from practice squad to starting in the matter of days.

A veteran of 80 career games (47 starts), Morrow’s initial omission from the team’s 53-man roster days earlier raised some eyebrows.

The Eagles instead elected to roster just three off-ball linebackers while retaining Morrow on the practice squad for veteran insurance.

Largely out of sight and out of mind, Morrow – an early free-agent acquisition once viewed as the odds-on favorite to start on the weak side opposite Dean – watched from afar as the Eagles struggled in Week 1 to contain the Patriots’ short-to-intermediate passing game.

But Morrow said he didn’t aguish over uncontrollable variables. He noted the typical whirlwind lifestyle for NFL players as par for the course.

“It’s part of the game,” he said. “The NFL is so fickle. One minute, I’m changing diapers on Sunday and then I’m playing. It’s just part of the business.

“Sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn’t. But I think the biggest thing, as a pro, is just being ready for whatever situation and preparing as best you can.

“It doesn’t do me any good to fret, so I wanted to make sure I stayed locked in and when I got my chance, make sure I made the most out of it.”

Going into Thursday night’s game, Morrow was widely expected to provide depth as the third linebacker behind projected starters Zach Cunningham and Christian Elliss.

That Elliss was tasked with the responsibility of wearing the green dot last Sunday in Dean’s absence – safety Reed Blankenship fulfilled that duty late in the game – only fueled speculation that Elliss would start with Cunningham.

But in addition to being issued with the green dot, Morrow – who started all 17 games for the Bears in 2022 in a career season – provided optionality for defensive coordinator Sean Desai.

And the game-day decision ultimately swayed in Morrow’s favor, with Desai entrusting the 28-year-old to serve as his defensive play-caller – which wasn’t communicated to Morrow until hours before kickoff.

“Definitively, earlier [Thursday],” Morrow said of when he learned of his game day role. “I mean, I did some [play-calling] during the week or whatever, but definitively, during the walkthrough today.”

Morrow, who accounted for 95% of the defensive snap share against the Vikings, finished with three tackles and a quarterback hit on defense along with a fumble recovery on special teams.

To the naked eye, Morrow swarmed to the football, was reactive in coverage and glaringly communicative for someone so easily discarded merely days earlier when the Eagles released him at the cutdown.

The magnitude of the moment was old hat for the well-traveled vet, and his urgency was palpable.

But how would Morrow grade his own performance?

“I did alright,” Morrow stated, diplomatically. “Obviously, you always wanna clean stuff up. That’s just who I am as a person. But I haven’t played MIKE all year, so getting in there and playing MIKE on a Thursday night game is kinda trippy.”

The “MIKE” is the middle linebacker position, often perceived as the proverbial heartbeat of a defense.

The shot-caller. The tone-setter. The difference-maker.

The defensive infrastructure is seen through the MIKE’s scope.

Those characteristics apply to Dean – who despite a limited sample size has warranted the widespread intrigue and optimism – but also defined Morrow’s mantle in Chicago.

That is, before the team traded Roquan Smith to the Ravens on Halloween.

“When you’re playing one position, you kind of know the other positions,” Morrow explained. “It’s just the small nuances and details that maybe you’re not as clean on.

“Coach gave us a little test, so just taking that test and putting myself through all the calls that we have for the situations and then looking at their routes and stuff like that. So, it was really a lot of mental preparation that I needed to do to get ready.”

Almost a year had passed since Morrow manned the middle, but if his performance Thursday – and behind-the-scenes diligence – is indicative of his long-term viability in Desai’s defense, the trial-by-fire experiment might well have yielded a long-term stay on the active roster.

“I didn’t sleep much – well, I slept – but most of my time was really just spent going over the calls and making sure I was good on that,” he said. “And then going over what they did in the past and what we could expect [Thursday].”

– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for

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