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Eagles Mailbag: Will Nakobe make the Dean’s list?

Also, coach shenanigans

Tennessee Titans v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

On Monday we asked you for Eagles mailbag questions. You obliged. Let’s jump in like it’s a pool.

Will the Eagles LB corps be an improvement over last season? - WGXRT51

Okay this is going to be a lame answer: I don’t expect it to, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if it is.

Between the two, the floor is higher for the 2022 unit. TJ Edwards entered last year with 30 starts under his belt, Kyzir White with 29. They weren’t a great duo, but you knew what you were getting. Nicholas Morrow has 46, but he’s also on his third team in as many years. Nakobe Dean of course has never started, he played only 34 snaps last year. So Week 1 I would feel more comfortable with Edwards and White last year than Dean and Morrow this year.

Beyond their experience, the 2022 linebackers had it easy. The defensive line and secondary played out of their mind, which lessened the burden on them. 70 sacks and the fourth most takeaways erase a lot of mistakes. (Sidenote: Nakobe Dean had a similar situation in college, he was playing behind a DL that went two deep in 1st round picks.)

But the ceiling is higher for this year’s edition, which is entirely because of Nakobe Dean. Last year Edwards and White combined for 0 turnovers, and 3.5 sacks. In his final season at Georgia Dean had four turnovers and six sacks.

If Dean is just meh, this unit is a negative. If he can bring any playmaking juice to the position, this unit becomes a positive. No pressure!

Will Dean or one of the rookies shine this season? - grantspectations

The 2023 rookie class has a very good chance to look like the 2022 class in that only the top pick will see regular playing time because the veteran starters are too good to take off the field, and they are healthy. I don’t think that will happen this year to the extent that it did in 2022, in part because Tyler Steen and Sydney Brown have a shot at a starting job.

But among young players who did not or barely featured for the Eagles in 2022 who can be real contributors this year, Dean is the leader in the clubhouse because he already has a starting job. Sean Desai has given Dean the green dot, which means he’s going from barely seeing the field to lead linebacker. With the talent in front of him and expectations that aren’t high, Dean is going to get every chance to show he can be an answer.

After a year for NFL teams to scheme against the rugby sneak. Will the Eagles move away from Jalen Hurts (their $250 million man) sneaking the ball or build plays off it and create a whole new subpackage? - pier 3 iggle

Until somebody shows that it can be stopped the Eagles have no reason to go away from what they have been doing. The play doesn’t put Hurts at a greater risk of injury or increase his wear and tear, he’s basically just falling forward and when there is contact it is low impact.

If teams show that they can neutralize the rugby scrum sneak, the Eagles did show some different looks off it as the season progressed, so they’re already ahead of the adjustment/counter-adjustment game that will take place this season. But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

If Cam Jurgens isn’t the starting RG, any thought to C rotation to gain experience and keep Jason Kelce fresh? Yes, yes, snap continuity, but professionals should be able to handle that, eh? - HillybillyGraham

The Patriots tried an offensive line rotation in 2015. That year they opened the season purposely heavily rotating both guard positions, they also rotated both tackle spots for a few possessions over the first month of the season. That sort of paid off when they encountered a bunch of injuries as the season progressed and suddenly they had a bunch of options with some in-game experience. They ended the year with 39 different combinations, no one played more than 77% of snaps. Overall though, it worked so well for them that in 2016 they totally scrapped it, all their starters played at least 90% of snaps. If Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels (who for all his faults is a pretty good OC) and Dante Scarnecchia tried it and hated it, then that’s a pretty good reason to not try it yourself.

Offensive line is the unit you don’t want to mess around with on playing time. Every starter should be playing every meaningful snap. But once the game is out of hand? Get Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson out of there.

How do you feel about Devon Allen saying he’s the fastest player in the NFL. Especially since people like Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, and Parris Campbell could easily be considered faster by non-Philadelphia fans. - Brizzler13

I love it. Last week Devon Allen set the 4th fastest time in the 110m hurdles in 2023. Even with those very specific qualifiers, that’s pretty damn fast. Could another NFL player do better in a sprint event? Possibly. But they haven’t. In March Tyreek Hill ran a 6.70 60m at the USATF Masters Indoor Championships, which is a competition for old people. That won his group but was only 213th in the world. In 2021 DK Metcalf ran in a USATF 100m event, he finished last in his heat and 15th out of 17th.

Until someone else puts up a time in a legitimate competition that is at least in the conversation for fastest time in the world, Devon Allen is the undisputed fastest man in the NFL.

Why do head coaches insist on playing defense at end of a game when their defense hasn’t stopped offense entire 2nd half and their opponents defense isn’t stopping you? If opposing team has 2 minutes, the ball, and need to score, just let them score via lining up on 8 yard line to defend kick, they either score immediately or 3 downs and kick a FG. Then your team has the ball and chance to win with close to 2 minutes on the clock. - Silverlark60

Job security. If a coach fails doing traditional things, well, that’s just the way it goes sometimes. But if you try something totally unorthodox and fail, a coach puts themselves out there to get criticized or worse, they can get fired. It can be hard to climb back up that mountain.

The few times we have seen a team let the other team score or tried to let them score has been in playoff games, where it’s obviously do or die but also it’s unusual to get fired after a playoff game, even if you’re one and done. In October, against the Chargers? Coaches aren’t going to do that.

I agree with you that they should. Like 4th down attempts and 2 point conversions, letting a team score to give yourself a chance to make the winning score is one of those things where fans are actually ahead of coaches. In basketball the concept of a 2 for 1 is accepted and when it goes wrong it’s on the players for not executing it, not the coach for letting it happen.

Once someone does it and succeeds with it other coaches will probably do it.

If quarterback is the most important position, then why doesn’t a guy like AJ Brown get MVP consideration when all he has done is significantly boost the QBRs of Ryan Tannehill and Hurts? Seems to me like this guy has significant influence over the play of the most important position, which makes him incredibly valuable. - JoeDirtsBarber

Because MVP voters are hugely biased towards QBs and RBs. Only three players have won MVP without being either a QB or RB, the most recent was in 1986 when Lawrence Taylor won it.

But you’re right, a player like AJ Brown should get consideration. Josh Allen didn’t become Josh Allen until Stefon Diggs arrived. Joe Burrow’s best seasons in college and the pros have been with Ja’Marr Chase. That’s not to say that those WRs made their QB, but there’s definitely a chicken and the egg component to QB and WR play.

As great as AJ Brown was last year, and Justin Jefferson as well, if any WR was deserving of MVP votes it was Tyreek Hill, who was the major reason why Tua Tagovailoa had a “break out” season.

Is there a team that has done more to depreciate the value of RBs this past year than the Eagles? - JemTheRocker

No. The Eagles approach to RBs this year is “well, we should have a few on the roster.” And it’s hard to fault them, it’s no longer an important position in today’s game. And it’s not just an NFL thing, if you watched any XFL or USFL games you could see players who deserved a shot at the NFL at pretty much every position, but the running backs were crap.

What can you see the Eagles looking to take in the first two rounds with those top three picks? - mlbsports23

A lot can change between now and then but right now I would expect the Eagles to draft an edge rusher and an offensive tackle in two of those picks. As long as Howie Roseman is in charge you can safely bet on the Eagles drafting a lineman of some sort in the 1st round, from 2012 to 2023, seven of the Eagles 11 1st round picks were offensive or defensive linemen, and during that span they’ve drafted seven offensive or defensive linemen in the 2nd or 3rd round.

What makes the Eagles more fun to follow than any other NFL team in your view? - Masked Man

When I was in London I went to a sports bar to watch football and it was just like watching football at a sports bar in America, with one exception: everyone had weird (for America) reasons for following the team they were repping. At least among the people I talked to, fantasy football was a big entry to the NFL, with people getting attached to a player who did great for them and then becoming attached to their team. I met a guy from Edinburgh who was an Eagles fan because he and his friend got Madden, let the game randomly choose which team each had, and they decided that they would follow those teams. The other guy got the Patriots, he got the Eagles.

Next time I’m in Europe if someone said to me they want to get into the NFL but can’t decide on a team, I would try to sell them on the Eagles with this argument: there are only really a handful of franchises that truly try to win every year, and the Eagles are not only one of them but are actually good at it. And of course, the fanbase can’t be beat. What is there to not like?

Can Jalen Carter be an elite all everything DT that can make a whole defense better? Can we even begin to say potential to reach a Jerome Brown, Warren Sapp or Aaron Donald level? What’s his upside? - folesandpederson

Jalen Carter’s upside is the best DT in the league. That’s why his reward is worth the risk. And because the team took Jordan Davis last year and will always prioritize the DT position, the risk is a little less than it would be on another team where everything is riding on him.

Who’s the most underrated (or unexpectedly difficult to replace) player we just lost in FA? Isaac Seumalo? Marcus Epps? T.J. Edwards? - JemTheRocker

Epps if only because competence goes a long way at safety and the Eagles have had such a hard time finding competent safeties.

How concerned are you with the loss of Shane Steichen as the play caller? - WiltsJunk

I have a low level of concern over the loss of Steichen. I don’t have any reason to believe the guy isn’t a good coach. But to channel the Bobs from Office Space…. what exactly did he do here?

The Eagles didn’t run his offense, he ran Nick Sirianni’s offense. And that offense, like any other in football, was a group effort, part Steichen, part Nick Sirianni, part Jeff Stoutland, part Brian Johnson, part Alex Tanney, part Kevin Patullo, part Marcus Brady… and apparently for the Super Bowl part Vic Fangio for some reason. Some of those parts were much bigger than others, but the offense wasn’t put together by one man during the week, and all of those other coaches are still with the team. On Sundays in-game adjustments weren’t his alone either, Jeff Stoutland plays a big part in those. And it helps to have excellent players, which the Eagles have.

Shane Steichen is probably a pretty good coach, and the Eagles will be fine without him. All the talent is still there as is the supporting staff Steichen had.

What current player on the Eagles roster has the best chance of becoming a coach in the league in the future? - djpheel

A year ago my answer would have been Isaac Seumalo, who Jeff Stoutland and teammates have praised as basically another coach in the meeting room and in mentoring young players. I can definitely see him becoming an offensive line coach when his playing career is over. And if he didn’t just make “never have to work again” money, I would say Jalen Hurts, though Deion Sanders is showing that star players can be coaches (TBD if they can be good coaches).

Though he’s only a rookie, I can see Nolan Smith becoming a coach. His combination of smarts, passion, and leadership are well suited to the job. He even moved into a quasi-graduate assistant type role last year after getting hurt, and openly talked about getting into coaching when his playing days are over. Hopefully for the Eagles, that future is a long ways away.

Can we talk about how Jonathan Gannon looks like James Murray from Impractical Jokers? I mean is his head coaching gig just another one of their pranks? - SGTSteve

Oh my god.

This explains so much. (It gave me the option to mark that photo as sensitive. I thought about it.)

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