5 Philadelphia Eagles Breakout Candidates in 2023 Include Nakobe Dean and Kenneth Gainwell

Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman has watched plenty of players depart in free agency this offseason. Yet, there are a few familiar faces that are ready to step up and fill those voids in the City of Brotherly Love. Which Eagles players are due for potential breakout performances in 2023?

Philadelphia Eagles Breakout Candidates

After a flurry of offseason moves, the Eagles are approaching the start of NFL training camp. And despite the departure of several former starters in free agency, Philadelphia is well-positioned to immediately fill those vacancies.

Even though the Eagles’ selections in the 2022 NFL Draft hardly played last season, they’re set to rely heavily on a few of their second-year players. Despite signing several veterans at positions of need in free agency, Philadelphia will likely need a few of their young players to break out next season. Here are five candidates with strong chances to do exactly that in 2023.

LB Nakobe Dean

Many were shocked as former Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean fell to the third round in the 2022 NFL Draft. He was viewed as a steal for the Eagles but hardly played during his rookie season. T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White had a stranglehold on the LB position in Philadelphia, and Dean played just 34 defensive snaps last season.

MORE: Where Does Philadelphia Rank Among NFL Defenses in 2023?

But now, Dean is the clear leader to be Philadelphia’s LB1 in 2023. Dean is already donning the green dot on his helmet during practice, as he looks to become the voice of the Eagles’ defense this upcoming season. It was clear during his days at Georgia that Dean is a tone-setting leader, and he should be able to showcase exactly that for the Eagles in 2023.

RB Kenneth Gainwell

Although the Eagles signed Rashaad Penny in free agency and traded for D’Andre Swift, third-year RB Kenneth Gainwell is due for a breakout performance. During Philadelphia’s three-game postseason run last season, Gainwell led the Eagles in rushing yards, making it clear that head coach Nick Sirianni trusts him in the game’s biggest moments.

Similar to Swift, Gainwell is a strong receiver out of the backfield, but he also showcased a surprisingly tough running style last season. Given the fact that both Penny and Swift have struggled to stay healthy during their NFL careers, Gainwell could be a steadying force for the Eagles in 2023.

DT Milton Williams

Immediately after Javon Hargrave’s departure in free agency, many shifted their focus to Milton Williams as a player to watch in Philadelphia. Williams showed flashes of brilliance last season as a rotational defensive lineman off the bench. While only playing 36% of Philadelphia’s defensive snaps, he had 36 total tackles, four sacks, and nine tackles for loss.

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Despite the arrival of first-round pick Jalen Carter, Williams could still have a breakout campaign in 2023. Eagles defensive coordinator Sean Desai will likely use a 3-4 defensive front and rotate players along Philadelphia’s front. Williams is a freakish athlete with the versatility and ability to wreak havoc from various alignments.

DT Jordan Davis

It’s fair to say that Jordan Davis disappointed during his rookie season in Philadelphia. Just when the former first-round pick appeared to find his groove, he suffered a high ankle sprain that forced him to miss multiple games. Although Davis returned during the second half of the regular season, he failed to make a significant impact and didn’t record a single sack.

Nevertheless, as the Eagles transition to more of a 3-4 defensive front, Davis is due for a breakout season in 2023. He’s clearly the top nose tackle on Philadelphia’s roster and should play significantly more snaps than he did last season. If he can stay healthy, Davis should be a dominant force in the middle of Philadelphia’s defensive front next season.

S Reed Blankenship

Reed Blankenship appears to be the next undrafted free agent success story for the Eagles. Blankenship stepped up for Philadelphia last season when starting safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson was injured. The man that they call “Ghost” in Philadelphia’s locker room made plays all over the field and was a pleasant surprise during his rookie season.

MORE: What Would’ve Happened If the Eagles Traded Jalen Hurts to Seahawks for Russell Wilson in 2022?

Blankenship is already taking snaps with Philadelphia’s first-team defense during OTAs and is easily a top-three safety for the Eagles. If he can hold on to the starting job, Blankenship is in line for a breakout season in 2023 and will likely try to secure a few more interceptions on prime-time television.

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