Nakobe Dean has the green dot.
That’s not surprising. We pretty much already knew that was going to happen.
But as the Eagles took the practice field to begin OTAs this week, we actually got to see it in front of us. The second-year player from Georgia is the Eagles’ MIKE linebacker and wearing the green dot on his helmet, signaling his role as the on-field point man for the defense.
“I’m proud of him,” second-year safety Reed Blankenship said. “Me and him, we’re pretty close friends. Just knowing him and knowing his work ethic and knowing his leadership role that he’s going to have to take, it feels really good to see him out there working.
“He looks comfortable. He loves doing what he’s doing. He communicates all over the field and I feel strong about him.”
The Eagles obviously feel pretty good about Dean too. Because they lost their two starting linebackers from the 2022 season and made just one significant addition, bringing in Nicholas Morrow. The middle linebacker job was always destined to be Dean’s and now he gets to prove to everyone that he deserves it.
Just one player on the field for each team on the field wears the green dot, indicating that there’s an internal speaker in the helmet for communication with the play-caller. On offense, it’s obviously the quarterback. On defense, it’s most commonly a linebacker.
Last year, it was T.J. Edwards listening to Jonathan Gannon. This year, it’ll be Dean listening to new DC Sean Desai.
It’s a big responsibility. And one the Eagles are entrusting to a young player who hasn’t really played much yet at the NFL level.
It was mostly a redshirt rookie season for Dean, who played a grand total of 34 snaps on defense last season. Earlier this spring, Dean admitted he wanted to play as a rookie, that he felt like he was ready to play, but adjusted and accepted his role.
Dean handled his year as a special teamer with grace and he embraced it. But he wanted more.
And now he has it.
The Eagles used a third-round pick (No. 83 overall) on Dean last year out of Georgia. He was a serious consideration for the Eagles in the second round when they took Cam Jurgens with the 51st pick and they were shocked to see him still available when they selected in the following round. It was a bit of a draft free fall for Dean, who was the leader of a National Championship defense at Georgia.
There were reportedly some concerns about his health — although he played in all 20 games last season — and his size probably isn’t for every team. He’s listed at 5-foot-11, 231 pounds; It’s not 1995 anymore but Dean is still a bit undersized even in today’s game.
But there were plenty of reasons for the Eagles to be bullish on Dean and he’s been showing his teammates those qualities so far this spring.
“We started in the weight room obviously, right?” Morrow said. “He’s very explosive and strong. Then we got into the meetings rooms, he’s smart. He knows his stuff, he knows what’s going on. Good communicator. So he’s doing a great job.”
Dean and Jordan Davis were the first two Bulldogs to invade the NovaCare Complex last year. This year, they’ve been joined by three more Georgia draft picks in Jalen Carter, Nolan Smith and Kelee Ringo.
In the past two years, the Eagles have drafted five players who were key cogs for a couple of National Championship-winning teams.
A big part of playing the MIKE linebacker and having the green dot is the ability to communicate. It’s something Dean did very well at Georgia and it’s a quality that he’ll need to display in Year 2 in the NFL. Davis has already played at a high level with Dean behind him, so he knows exactly what to expect.
“If we got a play at Georgia where he’s blitzing, I gotta make sure I get out of his way,” Davis said. “And he has to communicate that. He’s a world-class communicator when it comes to D-line and stuff like that. Just having Nakobe, man, having him get his shot is great. It’s great. There isn’t much to be said but I just love seeing him have his opportunity.”
Dean has been described as an Alpha personality and said he didn’t change that about himself in a backup role last season. If you hear his college teammates talk about his role for the Bulldogs, it’s clear just how much of a leader he was. That extended off the field but it was a big job between the lines too.
There’s a lot of Dean’s plate this year. He’s a first-time starter on a defense with a new scheme, new coordinator and new players. It’s his job to be ready to play but also to communicate and be an on-field leader.
A lot of the Eagles’ success on that side of the ball in 2023 will be on Dean’s shoulders. And his teammates can’t wait to watch him thrive.
“He has a chip on his shoulder,” Davis said. “He always talks about it. And that’s what drives him. And just seeing him get his opportunity and for us to have an opportunity to play together, to be on the field at the same time, that’s amazing.”
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