Jamar Chaney, the former starting middle linebacker unseated by the offseason trade for former Houston Texans star Ryans, worked with the second unit but said he expects to fight it out with Rolle for the starting weakside spot. Sure sounds like strongside, where Chaney also has started, is very much Kendricks' job to lose.
The linebackers were the most scrutinized, criticized group last season, as the 8-8 Eagles fell short of expectations, and the playoffs. This week offers the first look at how the plan to rework the unit is going, even if we won't see pads and hitting.
"It was fun. I've been waitin' for a long time to put the Eagles gear on and step out there," Ryans said. "It was fun being able to come together as a team ... first day, things started moving a little fast, but it was a good start for us.
"I was comfortable. It's similar to things I've done in the past," he said. "I was very comfortable with what we were doing today ... things happen a lot faster than they do on film ... Having the spring practice is important because you get to detail your defense, take our time on the install, really master what we're doing."
That was a chance nobody on the Eagles or in the NFL had last season, Juan Castillo's first as the defensive coordinator. Ryans was in Houston, trying to learn a new 3-4 scheme, coming off Achilles' surgery, deprived of the normal offseason work by the NFL lockout. The resulting season didn't go great for Ryans, which was how he came to be available in a trade unpopular with Texans fans and players, given Ryans' status as a leader and franchise icon. The Texans seem to be a little defensive about the fallout over Ryans' departure, as the Eagles have been a few times over the years when prominent players have left.
"I don't mind throwing it on the table, we're pretty pleased with picking Bradie up, because we feel like we gained back what we lost with DeMeco leaving, and then some, to be honest with you," Texans linebackers coach Reggie Herring told reporters Tuesday.
Different strokes, and all that. The Eagles are pretty excited to have Ryans, the NFL defensive rookie of the year in 2006 who has made the Pro Bowl twice - two more times than ex-Cowboy James, by the way, who is 3 1/2 years older than Ryans.
Ryans was asked about being expected to lead a group when you're new in the locker room.
"It doesn't take long; it just takes time to learn the guys, learn the locker room and get comfortable around everyone. Being here over the past month, working out with the guys, you get more and more comfortable," he said.
Ryans said he is glad to be back in the middle of a 4-3, where he feels he belongs. He said he feels he can be more active there than where he was last year, outside in what he said was more of a weakside 3-4 role. He said as he and Kendricks get situated, they aren't having to lean too heavily on Rolle, who played in Castillo's defense last year as a sixth-round rookie from Ohio State. Kendricks agreed.
"We were in there talking a lot - inside linebackers have got to communicate," said Kendricks, the second-round draftee from Cal. "We're helping each other out."
Kendricks added that even though the defense is new to Ryans as well, "he has more experience" and has a better idea of what to do than the rookie.
"It was the first day. I thought I did fairly well, could have done better," Kendricks said. "I'm just going to take it for what it is and get better."
Kendricks confirmed that he also is in the nickel package, alongside Ryans. In the early going, Kendricks has the most extensive role of any Eagles rookie.
"That's what they brought me in for, and that's what I'm going to try to be doing," Kendricks said, when asked about starting.
Ryans got his first taste of working against the Eagles' offense.
"A lot of speed . . . I see a lot of playmakers," he said.
Chaney, meanwhile, wasn't expected to be a full-time participant when Eagles coach Andy Reid updated the injury situation a week earlier. Chaney is coming off neck surgery. He said doctors cleared him just a few days ago. Obviously, as he fights to stay in the picture, Chaney wants to be on the field.
"They got, on the depth chart, me and B-Rolle at the WIL. I'll go with the '2s' and let him go with the '1s'. May the best man win, if it's just me and him battling it out," said Chaney, a seventh-round pick in 2010. "Nothing in my life has ever been given to me. You always have to work for it. I prefer it like that. Keep throwing the obstacles out there, I'm going to keep winning. Not too many people out there are going to work as hard as me, do everything right and all that. My confidence level is always high."
Chaney acknowledged he has never started on the weakside.
"I think I'm pretty good in space. I've got the speed to do it. It shouldn't be a problem," he said.
Other than the expected injury absences, and rookie safety Cliff Harris from Oregon, prohibited from attending by NFL-NCAA rules about schools on the quarter system that are still holding classes, the only Eagles not present were defensive end Jason Babin, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins and linebacker Keenan Clayton. Babin, according to his publicist, was in Alaska. Jenkins said his wife underwent surgery this week and he was with his family. No word on Clayton, who faces a tough roster battle and has been one of the most reliable participants in offseason workouts, the Eagles said. The OTA this week is not mandatory for vets.
Contact Les Bowen at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @LesBowen. Read the Daily News' Eagles blog, Eagletarian, at www.Eagletarian.com.