May 26, 2024   4 MIN READ

Don’t Count Him Out

DiCecco: 3rd-Year LB Expects To Change Narrative


Stationed at a designated post somewhere in the midst of Wednesday’s pre-practice stretch line, Eagles third-year linebacker Nakobe Dean was spotted, flashing a wide grin.

It very much felt like a full-circle moment for the 23-year-old, who last spring encountered similar buzz as the new face of the Eagles’ linebacking corps.

Another parallel is that while the pieces around Dean have undergone wholesale changes this offseason, much responsibility is still expected to fall on Dean’s shoulders as the projected defensive signal-caller.

A breakthrough season for him would significantly alter the trajectory of the second level for the Eagles defense, which is constantly under scrutiny.

More than six months has elapsed since Dean, returning from a season-ending foot injury, had been on a football field in a team-related setting before OTAs began.

And on the second day of OTAs, following warm-ups, he proceeded to position work before taking in 7-on-7s as a spectator.

Nakobe Dean

ITB PHOTO: Nakobe Dean hopes his foot injuries are in the past and he can flourish in Year 3.

Dean, working his way back to full strength in the aftermath of injuries to his left and right foot, had ditched the walking boot in early February.

As he mentioned during locker clean out, his rehab was being carefully approached by team medical staff.

The Georgia product also explained how the extensive process hampered his normal offseason regimen of heading down south for a break and kept him up North for the winter and spring.

“I’m trusting them,” he said in January. “They’re taking it slow, they want me to take it real slow. They’re a great staff in there – they’ve done a lot of good work – and I trust them.

“Of course, they want the best for me. They want me to come back and play and be the best version of myself.”

While it seems the general perception of Dean has since shifted from bullish optimism to skepticism, it would be wise to avoid irrational conclusions on a third-year player, instead taking into account the myriad factors that he offers as Dean enters a critical third season.

In his career, Dean has logged just 216 defensive snaps, 183 coming over his five-game 2023 campaign.

While there’s barely enough data to draw any long-term conclusions, it’s important to note that Dean also proved to be solid, if unspectacular.

There’s also a narrative floating that Dean’s an injury prone player.

Sure, a 5-foot-11, 231-pound linebacker landing on injured reserve twice in a season thanks to multiple foot injuries doesn’t exactly help his case, but what should also be taken into account is that he didn’t miss practice or a game as a rookie.

Whether his injuries are the exception or rule remains to be seen.

Perhaps most importantly, however, is that Dean – just like every defensive player – enters Year 3 with a clean sate after the team ushered in new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

As Fangio continues to gauge his personnel and tinker with the depth chart, he will afford Dean the same opportunity as everyone to make an impression.

There’s also the outside possibility that his slight build, paired with his cerebral and instinctive nature, makes him a better fit for the WILL (weakside) linebacker. Free-agent addition Devin White could assume the MIKE (middle) role.

More importantly, Dean will have a chance to rewrite his story and change any false perceptions about him.

The sample size might be limited, but a fully healthy Dean – coupled with a renewed sense of direction and leadership under Fangio — should inspire confidence as it pertains to the positional landscape.

Creating healthy competition is often an effective method of reaching a conclusion at a position group that’s perpetually under the microscope.

Dean is confident his on-field performance already showcased his capacity, as well as growth potential.

Once fully cleared to play, he plans on showing more.

“I hope so,” Dean said in January. “Whatever happens, I’m gonna be ready to work. I just want what’s best for this team. And that’s that.

“I feel like the best players will play. And I’m gonna work. If I’m the best version of myself, then I got nothing to worry about.”

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

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