We haven’t talked about DeMeco Ryans much recently. Something occurred to me the other day…could Ryans do for the defense what TO did for the offense back in 2004?
WR had been an up and down position from 1999-2003. The Eagles were then able to acquire Owens and he gave us our first glimpse of what a star receiver looked like. Andy Reid hasn’t gone without a significant WR since. None have turned out to be the next TO, but DJax and Maclin are a terrific duo.
Since Stewart Bradley’s injury in the summer of 2009, LB has been an issue. The Eagles have tried different fixes, but nothing has worked. This offseason the Eagles decided to get aggressive. They didn’t go cheap. There were no lottery tickets. They traded for a Pro Bowl performer to help shore up a weak position (same as what happened with WR in ’04).
We know TO helped push the team over the top and to get to the Super Bowl. Can Ryans do anything like that?
TO didn’t just bring talent to the field. He brought personality and confidence to the locker room. Other players seemed to feed off of that. The Eagles went from hard working overachievers to dominant butt-kickers. It helped that Jevon Kearse was on the team. Derrick Burgess stayed healthy. Jeremiah Trotter took back MLB. And Donovan stayed on the field and had his best ever year. Still, I do think TO gets a lot of credit. That team just felt so different.
TO was a big dog for the WRs. Now Ryans is trying to do that for the LBs. Ryans could not be more different in terms of personality. But he does have the right persona for LB. Casey Matthews has lifted weights with Ryans for about a month and already talks about him as a leader. Players see a talented veteran and immediately have respect for the guy.
Ryans gets that respect, but also carries himself like a confident leader. He’s “the man” and he knows it. Can’t hurt that he’s part of the youngest position on the roster. Akeem Jordan is 26 and the old man of the LBs corps. While he’s a respected veteran, he is a marginal talent. Players aren’t going to look up to him in the same way. Ryans is 27. He’s accomplished. He’s got 2 starts at MLB in the Pro Bowl. Casey has 2 starts at MLB in the NFL. Quite a difference.
The starting SAM is going to be Mychal Kendricks (21). The starting WLB will probably be Brian Rolle (23) or Jamar Chaney (25). Chaney has more NFL experience than that group combined. His presence will be invaluable, on the field, in the huddle, and in the locker room. Chaney has some experience, but is it good experience? Has he learned the right habits? Does he know what it takes to be a good NFL LB?
TO was a dominant WR. Ryans isn’t that level of LB. Not many MLBs are these days. Ryans joins a defense that has a lot of talent. He doesn’t have to impact the whole group. He needs to handle his job and that’s it. Ryans can be a very good MLB. He should be fully healed from his Achilles injury. Ryans can hit, cover, and tackle. He’s a 3-down LB.
Remember how TO got us all fired up when he opened the BAL preseason game with the 81-yard TD catch? All Ryans has to do is tackle a RB coming up the middle. The crowd will probably get just as excited.
If we can get good LB play in 2012, that will ease the burden on the Safeties and let those young guys grow and play with more confidence. I have faith in the DL and the CBs. DeMeco Ryans could really have a huge impact for us in 2012. We can hold off on the Super Bowl talk until we’re 13-1.
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Here’s an article on Ryans with a short interview from his charity golf tournament. One final note with him and TO…both guys are from the state of Alabama. Ryans went to ‘Bama. TO had to settle for Tenn-Chattanooga.
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A few people have asked about Fletcher Cox starting in 2012. I don’t know about this. Cullen Jenkins is the UT. Mike Patterson is the NT. You could replace Patt with Cox to get the most talented guys on the field, but that doesn’t seem likely. Who would be the backup UT then? Right now you have:
NT: Patterson – Dixon
UT: Jenkins – Cox
Derek Landri will do what he can to take Dixon’s spot away from him, but the coaches will err on the side of youth in that case.
I’m also not sure you want Cox at NT. That guy would deal with a lot of double teams. Part of the hope with drafting Cox is to get him into 1-on-1 situations where he can win and pressure the QB. At MSU he was the focus of blocking schemes. That won’t be true in the NFL. Give him a chance to show what he can do 1-on-1 as a rookie.
In 2013 you could see Jenkins maybe moving to NT and Cox being the UT. Or maybe Jenkins just becomes the backup UT.
One thing I can’t stress enough is that Mike Patterson is still very good at what he does. He can penetrate when single-blocked. He can take on double teams. He is a good run defender. With him out of the lineup vs WAS, the Skins ran all over us in the finale. In the first game we shut them down. A lot of that was on the absence of a guy like Patt to help control the middle. Any talk of benching Patt needs to seriously address all that he does well. Too many people are quick to dismiss him.
Cox will get plenty of playing time this year. Remember that in 2007 Justin Tuck was a backup and role player for the Giants DL. That was his 3rd year. There wasn’t a clear hole in the starting lineup for him, but the coaches used him really well and he had significant impact. Cox will play a lot. Whether he starts or not is somewhat irrelevant in 2012 and maybe even 2013. Just look for impact.
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QB Nick Foles signed his deal. Remember my prediction that he could be the next Manning (I didn’t make clear if that was Peyton/Eli or Cooper/Olivia).
Cox is the last guy to sign. Sounds like that could happen soon.