As a rookie third-round pick Dean played in just 34 defensive snaps, a paltry two per game due in large part to the health of staring linebackers T.J. Edwards, who played in 1,041 reps, and Kyzir White (844).
Edwards signed with Chicago in free agency and White defected to Arizona to reunite with Jonathan Gannon and Nick Rallis so Dean is penciled in as the starting Mike LB and the replacement for Edwards as the so-called “green dot” of the defense.
Considering Dean studied mechanical engineering at Georgia and was the Butkus Award winner as the nation’s best LB, as well as the SEC Defensive Player of the Yera in 2021, few doubt he can handle the role. Dean also showed impressive instincts in his cameos, amassing six tackles in those 34 snaps.
Because he’s penciled in as a leader, why not act like one during offseason work?
Dean did the rounds last week, appearing on the NFL Network and the Jim Rome show discussing topics that seem to be an extension of his time in college with the Bulldogs, the current back-to-back national champions who won it all with Dean in 2021 and doubled up without him with new Eagles defenders Jalen Carter, Nolan Smith and Kelee Ringo.
“I think our GM, Howie Roseman, did a good job drafting those guys this year,” Dean told the NFL Network. “I think he picked the best available guys. I don’t think he’s got a thing for Georgia [players], especially being from Florida. I think he picked the best available guys. He called me a lot asking about those guys — Kelee, Jordan and Nolan.
“I want to feel like I had something to do with it. … After the draft, I sent him a little ‘Go Dawgs.’”
It’s not just about the ex-Georgia players, however, Dean had to be the on-field leader and communicator for the entire defense, which will include entrenched veterans like Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham as well as new starters like himself and Nicholas Morrow and rookies like Carter and safety Sydney Brown.
“We’ve got a lot of underdogs on the team, a lot of people who play with a lot of chips on their shoulders, so we’ll never sit back and act like we’re the one with the targets on our backs,” Dean said. “We don’t look at it like we’ve got the target on our back.
“We look at it like we’re the ones out there hunting.”