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Slow and Steady Will Win the Race for Nakobe Dean

The Eagles rookie LB is being brought along slowly and the competition at his position is deep and talented

If you were expecting a quick trip up the depth chart for Nakobe Dean you're probably going to be a little disappointed to learn that the Butkus Award winner is still working behind T.J. Edwards, Kyzir White, and Davion Taylor at the Eagles' training camp.

In fact, the depth chart on Monday morning was Edwards and White followed by Taylor and Shaun Bradley with Dean taking third-team reps with second-year player JaCoby Stevens.

Edwards has impressed so much early as the starting MIKE LB that the Eagles have started putting him on a veteran pitch count and when that happens the athletic Davion Taylor jumps into the fray with White after an excellent first few days of camp and Dean was kicked up a notch to work with Bradley, a special teams star who can run.

"Everybody's smart, everybody's fast and they can process," off-ball LB coach Nick Rallis said of his LB room.

The mixing and matching will continue throughout camp and Dean still has plenty of time and preseason reps to close the gap on White and Taylor.

Reporters got an opportunity to check in with Dean on Monday after practice and he wasn't showing any frustration with the process.

"I’m enjoying it," Dean said of the shift from college superstar to rookie tasked with getting the Rita's Water Ice for the LB room. "Football is football, but I’m loving everything from the city to the new scheme to the coaches to the organization as a whole.

"I love it here."

Dean was a star student at Georgia as well, a mechanical engineering major with a 3.55 GPA but there is still a ramp-up period going from what you know to what you have to know now.

"It’s definitely a lot of different terms that we use, from Georgia to here," he said. "It might mean the same thing. That’s the biggest thing. Not as far as new terminology, but different terminology that means the same thing. I got to decipher it and get it right."

Dean is quickly understanding that experience is everything in the NFL.

"You gotta become more of a student of the game," he admitted. "It’s a lot of people who have been playing this game for a long time. People on Year 10 or Year 12 trying to take it in from guys like Fletcher [Cox], BG, [Jason] Kelce.

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"I’m thinking where I was at 10, 11, 12 years ago. I’m 21 now, so I was like 9 years old. So it’s like just thinking about that, it’s definitely something you can learn from watching them and talking to them, seeing how they do things."

Learning to be a professional player is something every rookie has to go through.

White, the Lehigh County native who signed with the Eagles in the offseason, has taken Dean under his wing even though the rookie could be pushing the veteran for playing time sooner rather than later.

"I know when I was a young guy older guys were helping me out so I just want to pay it forward and do the same thing," White said noting that vets Denzel Perryman, Thomas Davis, and Nick Dzubnar helped make him the player he is with the LA Chargers.

White noted he sits together in the meeting room with Dean, taking instruction from Rallis.

"He's a hell of a player," White said of Dean. "He's a hard worker. We sit together man, so he's always taking notes, always asking questions. You could tell he wants to be great and he's trained the right way coming from Georgia. He don't walk off the field, he's running off the field."

Dean has found multiple avenues for help, though.

"I don’t feel like it’s just one," he said. "I feel like I have to ask everyone different questions, anything that I want to know, I just ask. Or people come to me and tell me things ... I feel like everyone’s been helpful, everybody’s been supportive of the young guys."

The biggest driving force for Dean, however, remains the chip on his shoulder after falling from a perceived first-round pick to a third-round steal for the Eagles.

"There’s still a chip," he said. "I don’t think about it every day. I don’t even think about it every other day. Or every other week, or every other month. Right now, I’m just focusing on doing what I can do best for this team and focus on getting myself better and getting some things better."

And that may take a little longer than some hoped but the Eagles have little doubt when it comes to the end game.

"He's doing a great job so far of picking everything up, [we are] putting a lot on his plate," Rallis said. "He's going to be a good player."

-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's Eagles Today and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Sports. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talker Jody McDonald, every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on YouTube.com and JAKIBSports.com. You can reach John at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen