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Training Camp Position Preview: Linebacker

Nicholas Morrow
Nicholas Morrow

There is some change here, significant change, in fact. The Eagles will go with two new starters for 2023, and first up with the chance to earn the roles are expected to be second-year man Nakobe Dean and veteran Nicholas Morrow, acquired in unrestricted free agency after playing 100 percent of the snaps with Chicago last year and leading the Bears in tackles.

Nothing is etched in stone here, of course, so expect a lot of competition in Training Camp and throughout the preseason. Shaun Bradley returns for his fourth season and Christian Elliss hopes for a more significant role in his second year here. Davion Taylor spent last season on the practice squad after playing 250 snaps in 2021 and he's looking to earn a role in the defense at any of the linebacker positions. The Eagles signed Ben VanSumeren, a converted fullback at Michigan State who finished his career with the Spartans as a linebacker, after the 2023 NFL Draft. – Dave Spadaro

Did You Know?

• Nakobe Dean recorded six total tackles, including one for loss, in 34 defensive snaps as a rookie.

• Shaun Bradley leads the Eagles with 25 special teams tackles since the 2020 season.

• Christian Elliss recorded a career-high 4 tackles in a December 11 win over the New York Giants. He had seven total tackles in six games last season.

• Davion Taylor has 43 total tackles in 21 career games as an Eagle.

What Does the Film Show?

With the Eagles losing both starters from last year's NFC Champion squad, all eyes will be on second-year man Nakobe Dean this summer. The 2022 third-round pick was the leader of a vaunted Georgia defense that won a National Championship in his final season on campus, and Dean will look to bring his stellar intangibles, infectious play personality, and strong instincts to the Eagles' defense this fall. We didn't see too much of Dean a year ago outside of a spot here and there, but we got an early look at what his future may hold last preseason. I'm excited to see what Dean can look like in his first extensive action as a pro. – Fran Duffy

Key Stats

22.3 – Dean is typically known for the work he did downhill as a box-score stuffer in the structure of that Georgia defense in the run game, but don't discount the value he brings on third down as well. Dean was very effective as a blitzer from the second level for the Bulldogs, earning a Pass Rush Win Rate of 22.3 in his final season on campus according to Pro Football Focus (a mark that would put him in the 90th percentile of linebackers drafted in the last decade). In coverage, according to PFF, he allowed an opposing passer rating of 70.5 – a number that would once again put him in the 90th percentile of 'backers drafted since 2013.

75.6 – Shaun Bradley has really carved out a niche as a top-flight special teams player over the last couple of seasons to help pave his way onto the roster. Of all linebackers who have played at least 600 snaps on special teams the last two years, Bradley's PFF grade of 75.6 ranks in the top 10. He's one of the best in football at what he does both on coverage teams and as a blocker for returners.

New to the Nest

• Nicholas Morrow – The first player from Division III Greenville to make it in the NFL, Morrow is coming off a career season in which he had 116 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, two pass deflections, and an interception. A former rookie free agent signing of the Raiders in 2017, Morrow has started 28 games over the past two seasons.

• Ben VanSumeren – In his senior season at Michigan State, VanSumeren posted a career-best 81 tackles, three tackles for loss, and two sacks. As noted above, VanSumeren is a native of Bay City, Michigan, who began his college career as a fullback at Michigan before transferring to Michigan State.

They Said It

"Last year, I grew so much as a player, as a man, and now it's time to take it to another level and that's what I intend to do." – Nakobe Dean

Check out the linebackers on the Eagles' roster heading into Training Camp, presented by Independence Blue Cross. Players are listed in numerical order.

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