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Eagles show unwavering confidence in Nakobe Dean


Photo Credit by John McMullen/JAKIB Sports

ThrivePHILADELPHIA – The baton has been handed to Nakobe Dean, an undersized 22-year-old second-year player being given the keys to the second-ranked defense in the NFL as the Mike linebacker and “green dot.”

To his former teammates at Georgia, that leap of faith is met with a yawn.

“I’m ready to follow him,” said Nolan Smith, the 30th overall pick in April’s draft. “He was the signal caller at Georgia for three years in a row and I know how hard coach (Kirby) Smart was on him and I know what he expects from himself.”

“Same old Nakobe,” said second-year defensive tackle Jordan Davis, who came in with Dean in the 2022 draft after dominating at Georgia. “That’s the Nakobe I know. Just seeing him taking over the huddle, commanding the defense. He’s like the QB of the defense. Everything he says goes. It’s nothing new to me.”

Dean is acting the part as well, spending his post-practice time Sunday answering every question from reporters and even encouraging others who came in a little late to his scrum.

“Football’s football,” the savvy second-year pro said. “Being an engineering major [in college] kind of helps me with the studying part of things, having to study every night, be in that playbook because I want to know the defense as good as the coordinator if not better.”

The defensive coordinator — Sean Desai — is new to his job in Philadelphia as well and likes what he sees.

“The biggest thing I see from him is just the ability and the willingness to keep growing,” Desai said. “That’s what we’re looking for. … It’s a new role for him, and we’re excited about it because he’s got that mindset. He’s been really working hard obviously in the offseason and all summer, in constant communication with his coaches and myself, and kind of just setting himself up.”

While some on the outside believe the Eagles are putting too much, too soon on Dean’s plate, the organization seems non-plussed.

“Certain people hold themselves to a high standard, and he’s an engineering major, so if you think his brain is worried about something like this, it ain’t,” Smith said. “So, I’ll just say when you’re a high-standard person and hold yourself to a high standard, people will follow behind you every day.

“That’s what Nakobe is for me.”

Veterans have also fallen in line.

“Oh yeah, I’m excited for him,” said defensive end Josh Sweat. “I mean, he’s already taken control from the calls and you know, just knowing everything and getting everybody on the same page.

“You can tell he’s done it before. You can tell he’s a leader and he’s got to do big things. He’s gonna be big for us. He knows he’s ready.”

It’s a unique blend of reverence turning into respect for a young “quarterback” who is mature beyond his years.

Sound familiar?

“You have to earn their respect,” Dean said when talking about veteran players like Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox. “It’s a new defense for everybody. The more I know, the more I command the huddle, the more I get the play calls out, the more checks I make, the more confidence I build in them, and the more respect I get from them.”

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