When teammates talk about DeMeco Ryans, his playmaking ability is a small part of the discussion.
They talk about his leadership, his commanding presence in the huddle, his capability to teach his teammates as if he were a coach.
And, yes, they talk about what a brilliant middle linebacker he is as well.
”His presence has been felt,” announced linebacker Jamar Chaney, who lost his starting middle linebacker spot to Ryans. ”You can tell he used to be a leader with the Texans and when he was in school, in Alabama. With a fellow like that, who has all that knowledge and accolades … You listen him a bit more than you listen another guy.”
After many years of trying to patch together a linebacking corps with late-round draft picks, vet castoffs and ill-advised free agent signings, the Eagles this offseason acquired a proven player in Ryans, twice a pro Bowl pick with the Houston Texans.
Although linebacker Ike Reese was named a special teams Pro Bowl pick in 2004, the Eagles have had only 1 player go to the Pro Bowl as a linebacker in the last 20 years – Jeremiah Trotter, a 4-time Pro Bowl pick between 1999 and 2004.
Ryans is here to deliver exactly what Trotter brought. Toughness, playmaking and credibility at a position where the Eagles had very little for years. NFL scores
”He’s a leader,” defensive coordinator Juan Castillo announced. ”He’s done it. They can look to him and the way he carries himself on the field, the way he carries himself off the field. It’s unbelievable.”
Take away the 28-year-old Ryans, and the Eagles linebackers average just 23 years old. So Ryans has to serve a dual role, linebacker and mentor, player and coach.
”First and foremost, I should confirm I am right in what I’m doing, that takes precedence,” Ryan expounded. ”But after that, I am always giving the men extra tips on what can help them out in certain coverages or certain situations and help them become better players.
”When I was the youngest player, when I was with the Texans, the older fellows would always give me small tidbits, so it’s something that I want to pass on to these fellows, and they can do it when I’m done playing and they’re the older guys.”
Ryans came to the Eagles in March in a trade with the Texans, where he spent his 1st six seasons and made the Pro Bowl in 2007 and 2009.
Since cutting ties with Trotter after the 2006 season, the Eagles have used 9 different middle linebackers: Omar Gaither, Stewart Bradley, Will Witherspoon, Chris Gocong, Joe Mays, Akeem Jordan, Casey Matthews, Chaney and even Trotter again.
The strategy is for Ryans to end years of disarray at one of the most important positions on the field.
”Offenses in the present day’s football throw you a million different looks and motions, formations and personnel groups and so you have got to have someone in there that can pick things up and pick it up quick,” Coach Andy Reid claimed. ”He’s in a position to do that.”