The Defensive TO?

Posted: May 21st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 38 Comments »

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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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.


  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GWMNZ32U6YPGGA7N4JNWH4OSJE Mac

    I trust Washburn to make the right moves with Fletch. I have a feeling we will see him line up at UT and sometimes at DE. With our rotational system being a “starter” means nothing (in my opinion). We need guys to be fresh and I’m certain Washburn will have the right guys on the field in crucial situations. I doubt this happens but… I think you’d have a pretty darn solid d-line with Jenkins-Landri-Patt-Fletch on the field at one time (not that it will ever happen). We are blessed to have as much depth of talent as we have, and this fact is not lost on me.

    • TheRogerPodacter

      that DL might work for shorter yardage stuff, maybe. replace the smaller, faster DEs with the bigger, yet still very athletic DTs. maybe?

    • TommyLawlor

      I’m sure Wash will get very creative this year as he looks for combinations. He’ll focus on the #1, #2 DLs, but as we saw down the stretch last year…there is still room for creativity on special run/pass downs.

  • Skeptic_Eagle

    One of the nice things about Cox is that he’s not being forced into a starting position right away. With the rotation on the lines, he’ll come in with fresh legs, playing the position he’s best suited for, and will be asked to do what he did best in college. I don’t have snap counts, but I’d imagine that guys like Tapp, Hunt, and Landri all saw some significantly more playing time last year than a lot of backup defensive linemen around the league. Fletcher Cox is essentially a gravy pick in the best situation this year–nothing like B. Bunkley, when he came in, who was targeted to start right away, and had to adjust to a new gap-responsibility scheme than the one he played in college.

    I’m excited to have Ryans in the mix. I’m happy that they finally addressed a position all of us could see needed attention. What’s even more impressive, to me, is that they doubled down on LB by getting Kendricks in the draft. No matter how the pick turns out, you have to credit them for the draft capital they spent to make LB better. Now there’s just that nagging question of safety…Another case of roster whack-a-mole or do they really have the answer on the roster?

    • TommyLawlor

      If the LBs play better…if Nate Allen is pretty good…then SS doesn’t have to be great. Just solid. And I do think Kurt Coleman can do that.

      I like the young Safeties. I acknowledge that things can go bad, but I think too many people ignore the fact these guys could actually play well…that is a legit possibility.

      I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

      • TheRogerPodacter

        i like the fact that we aren’t asking for any player to be *great* next season, but simply to be *good enough*.

        • TommyLawlor

          Exactly. No one has to be the savior.

          • Caveman_Bob

            Bit of caution, here Tommy. I recall last offseason that you were emphasizing how, with our CBs and DL, we only needed our LBs to be “good enough”. That LB wasn’t a premium position, at least under Andy Reid, and we could get away with the talent we had.

            To me, the investment in safety this year is bigger than the investment was in LB, and I understand that once you spend two 2nd rders on safeties, in consecutive years, you have to give the investment a chance to come to fruition. However, every time I hear you say that our safeties ‘don’t have to be great. Just sold’, or some variant, I get flashbacks and a sense of impending doooooooom.

      • M0rton

        The safeties are critical in passing defense in today’s NFL.

        They have to be able to cover adequately and provide bracket coverage when needed. They could not do this last year.

  • lcwboyboy

    Thanks for the reminder that Andy needs to be punched in his fat head for insisting our receivers were good enough for 5 years. We should have been in the SB in 02 and 03 and we probably would have slayed the Raiders. Time to hit the bottle so I can start forgetting again.

  • aleandro green

    hey tommy i just saw that winslow might be released by the bucs, not trying to play fantasy football or anything but you think the eagles would ever be interested in him?

    • TommyLawlor

      Doubtful. Brent Celek is the veteran TE here. I think the Eagles had interest in adding a rookie/young guy, but Winslow is a descending player. He does still have some talent.

      • Thunder_lips

        I think the important piece of information that you’re overlooking is that Kellen Winslow is a F@#%ING SOLDIER!!!!!

        • TommyLawlor

          Forgot that. We should draft him!

  • rage114

    Rough timeline of signings:

    1. Most of the draft picks get signed in a fast and furious way.
    2. All of a sudden, things stop and we hear nothing else concerning their last two picks being signed.
    3. Then, McCoy is signed. Big signing. Probably took a lot of time and energy to finalize that.
    4. Now Foles signs.

    Is this a sign that Roseman has been involved with ALL the signings? Is this an indication that perhaps Banner is not involved at all?

    Reading too much into this I am sure but it is curious, IMO.

    • TommyLawlor

      I don’t know about negotiations w/ the rookies. I’ll see if I can find anything out.

  • A_T_G

    When I read the headline I first thought it was going to be a post on clock management. Great comparison. Hopefully it works out as well in the short term and just a little better in the long term.

    Also, I couldn’t resist:

    “I’m also not sure you want Cox at NT.  That guy would deal with a lot of double teams.”

    Not so. In fact, some guys spend a great deal of energy trying to get double teams to take on Cox.

    • TommyLawlor

      I’m going to see about using my Fletcher Cox columns as articles in Hustler. I think it would work.

    • TheRogerPodacter

      lol i thought it was about generating turnovers on defense.

  • iskar36

    Interesting comparison between TO and Ryans. I definitely think there could be a lot of similarities in terms of leadership when it comes to getting things done on the field. Sounds like Ryans will also be a leader off the field as well.

    The one thing I don’t agree with, and maybe I am reading too much between the lines, is the comment about Owens being a jumping off point for the Eagles at WR and how Ryans may lead to the same thing. Prior to TO, the Eagles had always prioritized WR. Unfortunately, that priority did not lead to quality results on the field. In 2000, Pinkston was an early 2nd round pick and Gari Scott (who? I have absolutely zero recollection of this guy) was a 4th round pick at WR. In 2001, we used a first round pick on Freddie Mitchel. Also, in 2003 we drafted Billy McMullen in the 3rd round. In other words, while we never had great WRs prior to TO, it was not due to a lack of trying. We made a ton of investments at the position and none of those guys panned out the way we had hoped.

    On the other hand, at LBer, we clearly have put less priority at the position. We rarely use significant resources at LBer (Mychal Kendricks being an obvious exception). Even in the Ryans deal, while he didn’t come cheap, swapping thirds and a fourth round pick is not exactly expensive either. For Ryans to truly lead to a jumping off point for the Eagles at LBer, he would need to actually change the way the Eagles’ look at the position, something I don’t think TO did (he just succeeded at what the Eagles were looking for).

    • TommyLawlor

      We had spent some resources at WR prior to TO.

      I do think we were more aggressive after TO. They traded for Donte Stallworth. They tried to sign him to a big deal, but Drew had him go to NE for 1 year. We then went and spent big money on Kevin Curtis. We drafted DeSean and then the next year added Maclin in the draft. We had tried to trade for Anquan Boldin prior to making that pick. We tried to sign Plax last year. We then did add Steve Smith (the horror, the horror).

      • laeagle

        If anything, Kevin Curtis was as close to a philosophy change as I can recall. As iskar points out, it’s not as if the position was ignored; we drafted a LOT of wide receivers. But the production just wasn’t there. What we did not do was go after high-priced free agents with marginal talent. I still get angry about the fans criticism of Andy and the office when they didn’t chase down Peerless Price, Antwan Randle-El, etc. All those guys were WAY overpriced on the FA market and the team was wise to try to build through the draft in that case.

        The TO signing was not so much a change in priority as much as the fact that FINALLY there was a guy worth paying the big money to. The available receivers before that were guys like Price: way overpriced for being just a smidgeon better than Pinkston and Company, if at all. Fans have always criticized the team for not going after FAs (though that has obviously quieted down) but that was never true. They saved their money for when the guys came available that were worth it. TO was one (albeit via trade), Kearse was another. Those were guys worth paying for.

        I think Stallworth fell into that category as well, considering when we got him and what we paid for him. Kind of a no-brainer. Maybe he would be as good as what we had, maybe better (he was), but he was (relatively) cheap compared to contracts like what Price got in Buffalo.

        Curtis was the first case where I thought they were reaching for a mid-tier receiver. I think it worked out pretty well for them, but even then, while he got paid well, they didn’t throw superstar money at him, like the Skins would have. Still, that was the first time I think they really “reached” at the position, so maybe something did change in the philosophy in those years.

        • pjxii

          Remember a dew years back when TJ Hoosh-man-zot-ah (I can’t spell that) hit the free agent market? Although I was hoping he’d land with the Eagles, after I saw the amount he finally signed for I was very relieved that the Philly FO didn’t give him what he wasn’t worth.

          • laeagle

            Yeah, forgot about him! I remember everyone crying about it, and I remember thinking he was a good player. But I also remember watching his highlight reel in that offseason and not being particularly impressed by anything in particular. The guy’s good, but all of his great catches were just “ball’s there!” kind of catches. He didn’t do much that made me say, “wow, that’s a special player”. I think he benefited a lot from Ocho Cinco in his heyday. Again, a great #2, but you don’t pay #1 money for a #2 when you already have a roster full of them.

    • D3Keith

      If you’re going to invoke 4th-round picks like Gari Scott as proof that the Eagles were “trying” at WR, then you need to more closely examine their history of “trying” at LB:

      Casey Mathews 2011 4th round
      [Brian Rolle, Greg Lloyd, 2011 6th/7th]
      Keenan Clayton, 2010 4th
      [Jamar Chaney, 2010 7th]
      [Moise Fokou, 2009, 7th]
      [Joe Mays, Andy Studebaker, 2008, 6ths]
      Stewart Bradley, 2007 3rd
      Chris Gocong, 2006, 3rd
      Matt McCoy, 2005, 2nd
      [David Bergeron, 2005, 7th]
      [Tyreo Harrison, 2002, 6th]
      Quinton Caver, 2001, 2nd
      Barry Gardner, 1999, 2nd

      Under Reid they spent 15 draft picks at LB prior to getting Kendricks and Ryans this season, including three 2nds, two 3rds and two 4ths.

      I’m sure you can look at this and say by not spending higher than a 3rd since 2007 means they haven’t been investing, but again, if you go far back enough to count Gari Scott, then look at the whole LB picture. And this is just the draft, not the Takeo Spikes or Will Witherspoon trades either.

      They have tried — definitely not as much as they try at DL, T and CB — they have just sucked at it.

      • iskar36

        Normally, I would not have mentioned Scott because as you said, a 4th round pick is not exactly a major investment (and besides, that year was covered anyways with Pinkston), but I saw the name and had no recollection of the guy what so ever.

        As to your point though, the Eagles have invested a reasonable number of picks to LBer, but my point was that leading up to trading for TO, WR had already been a position the Eagles had targeted as important. Leading up to the Ryans trade however, the most recent investments (last 3 years) at the position include nothing higher than a 4th round pick and if you look at our starters from last year, they included 6th and 7th round picks. That wouldn’t mean much if we had studs at LBers, but outside of Bradley, our LBers have been below average. Having said that, they did spend a 2nd round pick this year on Kendricks after going out and acquiring a MLB we all think can be a stud, so maybe the philosophy has changed a bit, but I’m not ready to jump to the conclusion that once Ryans starts to decline the Eagles under the current regime will be quick to make another significant investment at the position.

  • nopain23

    Just a thought…bucs are looking to trade Winslow…and they need DE…tapp for Winslow straight up?

    • TheRogerPodacter

      tommy answered this above:
      “Doubtful. Brent Celek is the veteran TE here. I think the Eagles had interest in adding a rookie/young guy, but Winslow is a descending player. He does still have some talent.”

      • nopain23

        oh thanks.my bad .i missed that.just thought if healthy and motivated he could be a threat in the RZ

      • nopain23

        plus.he’d have to agree to redo his contract i guess

  • ChaosOnion

    Is Ryans the guy with the green sticker on his helmet? Is he calling the defense and getting the guys in their spots? I remember reading he had already learned the playbook.

    • TommyLawlor

      The backup MLB will also have the green sticker. Just not sure who that is now.

  • austinfan

    I don’t think Washburn uses a NT/DT, he uses a LDT and a RDT.
    In Tennessee, he had Tony Brown (all 280 lbs in college, maybe 290 lbs i the pros) as his NT with Fat Albert as the DT. Doesn’t sound typical.
    In 2010 he had Brown and Jason Jones.

    Ideally, Washburn wants 4 DTs who can penetrate on every down, he moves them around, A-A, A-B, B-A, B-B, bull rush over the guard, keeps the blockers off balance.

    The only time I think they use a true NT is short yardage and that’s when Dixon would play over Landri, otherwise Landri was far more productive last year over Dixon before he got hurt, Dixon would have to get into much better shape to start ahead of Landri as the backup LDT. Cox will be the backup at RDT.

    Patterson lost weight as the year went on, he was important against the run for the same reason Landri was, not taking on double teams, but attacking and disrupting plays. Carolina let Landri walk after a 40 tackle, 3 sack, 7 stuff season b/c he couldn’t anchor or hold up for a whole season against the run. Even when Patterson was heavier, he was a mediocre NT, never became an Eagle version of Kelly Gregg (who Reid cut his first season as HC!). He’s most effective around 300 lbs or so, exploding off the ball, he often was driven off the LOS when he tried to anchor against double teams. even with his Buddah gut. Both were key against the run last year because they’d either attack a gap or the RG, and destroy the flow of runs to the strong side.

    • TommyLawlor

      If you listened to Andy talk after rookie camp he mentioned that Cox could play the 1-technique and 3-technique. That’s the NT and UT.

      I don’t think Washburn has guys only line up in that spot, but I do think he has them play a primary spot. Patt is the primary NT. CuJo is the primary UT.

      I don’t think this is as simple as LDT, RDT.

  • ACViking

    T-LAW (a/k/a “Sheriff) –

    The comment string’s touched on a nice variety of topics. (I guess the mere mention of TO sends all of us spiraling.)

    Question for you . . .

    After the 2009 playoff loss to Dallas, the local media reported Joe Banner famously calling the Eagles’ same-old, same-old approach to things an example of insanity. Or something like that.

    Anyway, my understanding is that Banner was talking about McNabb. And, a few months later, McNabb was gone to D.C.

    So . . . what’s changed? Are the Eagles better off for having unloaded McNabb? What’s really changed?

    (WARNING: You can’t mention TO without dragging McNabb-sters out into the light.)

    • TommyLawlor

      Banner’s comments came in March 2009, prior to McNabb’s final year. The changes we made that year…

      Tra, Runyan retired.
      Westy gave way to Shady at RB.
      LJ Smith left and Celek took over.
      We let Dawk leave in FA.
      We tried to trade for Anquan Boldin, but had to settle for drafting Jeremy Maclin.
      We added Leonard Weaver.

      I’m not sure what exactly Joe meant, unless he was talking about letting the veterans go and making changes in that regard. We did love our veterans so I’m not sure that makes sense.

      We did get younger at the skill positions (Celek taking over + drafting Shady + signing Weaver + drafting Maclin). We had McNabb as the vet and Kolb as the kid.

      I don’t regret trading McNabb at all (after the 2009 season). It was time for him to go.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anders-Jensen/748307140 Anders Jensen

        The only thing I remember from that season was that Ratliff killed us after we lost JJackson and the draw play against when we was in nickle

  • M0rton

    The Ryans = Owens analogy is one that I would like to believe is accurate, but when we talk about TO we have to remember he is a Hall of Fame caliber WR and probably one of the ten best WRs to ever play the game.

    I don’t know if Ryans, even at his peak, was one of the best MLBs in the game today. He is clearly not in the Hall of Fame pantheon of the Urlachers, the Singletarys, or the Hams.

    It would be nice, though, if you were correct about this situation. This team hasn’t had a stud MLB in ages.

    But in the end, it all comes back to the CBs. The dirty secret of the 2011 Eagles is that, while the run defense and the LBs were not good, their downfall was actually their passing defense, and the DBs in particular. Despite their pedigrees, they gave up a ton of passing TDs. Unless we see improvement from DRC, Asomugha, Allen, and Coleman in passing defense, this team will be mediocre once again.