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July 16, 2023

Mailbag: When are the Eagles going to add a linebacker?

A lot of it rides on the Eagles first figuring out if Nakobe Dean is ready to be a three-down guy.

Earlier this week, we solicited questions for an Eagles mailbag via Twitter and Threads (shameless plug: follow me here). Thank you as always for doing half the work for me. This is Part II of a two-part mailbag (Part I here). Let's just get right to it.

Question from @BigsWinz: When will the Eagles sign a veteran LB that you’ve been promising?

It makes sense that they haven’t added one yet. Why? Well, there's a lot of uncertainty about what they have, both at the starting spots and their depth. Is Nakobe Dean ready to be a three-down guy? Is Nicholas Morrow any good? Is Christian Elliss more than just a special teamer?

I think that once they get answers to some of those questions, they can decide whether they need a starting-level linebacker or just more depth. But I do think it's clear that they need more playable linebackers.

Question from @albakhan (via Threads): I know we’re all expecting Dean to be the starter and to be good because of his pedigree at Georgia, but what if he ends up not being up to the level? He couldn’t get a sniff of playing time last year.

I don't think I'd phrase it as "He couldn't get a sniff of playing time." If T.J. Edwards or Kyzir White had gone down, Dean would have been starting. Those guys just stayed healthy, so Dean had to wait his turn.

I do agree that a lot is riding on a player that we barely got to see in real games last season. He only played 34 snaps as a rookie, and he'll be the on-field general for a new defensive coordinator a season later. That is a major jump in responsibility. The Eagles seem to feel pretty confident that Dean is ready, but if he isn't then the team has a pretty big problem.

Question from @StanfordSays: With new coordinators for defense and offense will Sirianni take more control during games or will he continue to allow them to call the games?

Sirianni won't be calling the defense anytime soon, obviously. That'll be Sean Desai. 

On the offensive side of the ball, it'll be Brian Johnson calling plays, but it's probably more of a collaborative effort than that. The offensive staff, led by Sirianni, does a whole lot of work during the week of prep on how they want to attack opposing defenses, so they already kind of know what is going to get called during the game. And then once the game is underway, they are constantly communicating on the sideline with what to run and when, as well as making adjustments and such. 

It'll be interesting to see how well Johnson can get into a rhythm like Shane Steichen was able to do last season, but it's still Sirianni's offense no matter who is picking the plays on gameday.

Question from @bptess (via Threads) Will we be able to see the impact of the new coordinators during camp? In the preseason games?

Probably not. They're likely to keep it vanilla, especially on defense, to keep their first few opponents guessing a bit.

Question from @Getatmedawg215: One player you expect to get a contract extension sooner than later?

This past offseason the Eagles had a boatload of free agents, and as we all saw, they kept some and lost some. In 2024, the Eagles could lose some guys to retirement, but they don't have much in the way of young players poised to become free agents who might get a deal done long before they're in a position to test the market. Jalen Hurts was the big one they had to get done, but that's probably it.

Question from @KendallBeck: Thoughts on last year's UDFAs and their potential roles for the 2023 season?

• Reed Blankenship will have a chance to compete for a starting job at safety along with Terrell Edmunds and Sydney Brown. Whichever of those three guys doesn't start will still probably have a role in the defense, though.

• I like Josh Jobe's chance of making the team again this year. At a minimum, he'll be a special teamer, but I also think that if he has a strong camp he has an outside chance of being the first outside corner off the bench should Darius Slay or James Bradberry go down.

• Britain Covey will be the primary punt returner again, and he might even get kick-returning duties added to his plate if Boston Scott is a gameday scratch.

• I can't really comment on Josh Sills' status. I do think that before he was indicted on rape and kidnapping charges the team had hopes that Sills could be a backup guard/tackle for them this season, but for now he's on the commissioner's exempt list.

Question from @ShoutOutShawty: Is it possible to do an Eagles all HBCU team?  And if so, who would you have on it?

I don't think I could put together a full starting lineup, but my top three would be Harold Carmichael (Southern), Javon Hargrave (South Carolina State), and Hugh Douglas (Central State).

Question from @joetriglav: What games do you think they are going to break out the Kelly greens for this year? My thoughts: Week 7 vs. Miami, Week 9 vs. Dallas, Week 16 vs. Giants (Christmas).

I think they're going to unleash them early. Week 2 vs. the Vikings or Week 4 vs. the Commanders.

Question from @killakow: What’s the furthest in advance you’ve written a story?

• My "Eagles trade Zach Ertz" draft sat in limbo for a while. Looking back through some of the revision histories of some stories, I originally wrote the Ertz trade (generically, of course) on March 13, 2021. He got traded October 15, 2021, so 216 days. You can see the stuff in that article that was probably pre-written, and the stuff that had to be added.

• My "Eagles release Ryan Mathews" draft was written February 3, 2017. That got published August 15, 2017, or 193 days later. It was always clear that they were going to cut him after he suffered a neck injury in 2016, but they waited and waited and waited on the hope that he'd pass a physical and they wouldn't have to pay his "Injury Protection Benefit."

• My "Jalen Reagor trade conditions" post was originally written on September 1, 2022, the day after they traded him. There wasn't much to pre-write on that one, but I did it anyway since that information was definitely coming out at some point. I pestered a lot of different people for that info until I finally got it on February 17, 2023, 169 days later.

Those are three that I can think of that took more than half a year to publish. There might be more, but those are the ones I can think of at the moment.

Question from Jonzee72: My brother and I are gonna be in Philly for the MNF game Week 3. Any recommendations for places to catch the game?

Xfinity Live is right down the street from the stadium, though I’ve never really been a huge fan. I get why people like it. It’s just not for me. Otherwise, I have no idea since I go to every game. I get asked this question a fair amount though, so I’m curious if anyone has any recommendations other than Xfinity. Please fire them off in the comments section, if so.

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