Eagles have high hopes for new middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans

Posted: July 18, 2012

The trade for DeMeco Ryans comes with a cautionary tale.

You may have heard it before: The Eagles acquire an established player from another team - in this case, a former two-time Pro Bowl linebacker from Houston - and that player does not deliver upon expectations.

See: Jevon Kearse and Stacy Andrews.

Ryans comes with rather large expectations, although they're tempered with the fact that he is only two years removed from a ruptured Achilles tendon and that he is moving back into the middle of a 4-3 defense after a season as one of two inside linebackers in a 3-4.

The Eagles say they believe that Ryans, whom they acquired from the Texans in March for a fourth-round draft pick, is no longer hindered by his injury. They said that, in time, the move back to his natural spot in the middle will make last season's down year an anomaly.

"I think we just need to give him time to be himself," Eagles coach Andy Reid said last month. "Let's just see how things go. Right now he's new. He's feeling things out. He's only been here for nine weeks or so."

"On the other side of it, he's been a proven player in this league. He's been a Pro Bowl player, and he loves to play the game. I don't think that part is going to change."

That brings us to the players the Eagles acquired in recent years that did live up to expectations - Jason Peters and Jason Babin - or the players that came close - Asante Samuel and Cullen Jenkins.

The Eagles would surely take the latter in Ryans' case. They have had it so bad at middle linebacker over the last three seasons that even an average Ryans will be an upgrade. The Eagles really haven't had an effective defensive signal caller since Jeremiah Trotter.

"On the field, you see DeMeco directing traffic, making sure that the alignments are covered," Reid said. "He looks like he's a very good communicator on the field. Off the field, you get a mature, soft-spoken guy who isn't afraid to interject his opinion when needed."

Ryans will wear the headset and receive calls from defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. Their ability to communicate will be critical. But of more importance, Ryans said, is his effectiveness in conveying the message to the other 10 defenders and adjusting the coverages to the offensive alignment.

"The biggest thing is making sure we are on the same page," Ryans said last month.

Reid said that the Eagles' adjustments in their various zones were similar to the ones Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips employed in Houston last season.

"DeMeco understands the scheme, has experience in the scheme and with the adjustments," Reid said. "Maybe it's like speaking French, but they're using a different dialect."

As far as Ryans is concerned he doesn't have to relearn an old language now that he's back in a 4-3. It's still football.

"It felt good to be back, but it's still similar stuff that I did last year," he said. "For it to be totally foreign to me after a year inside, I can't say that."


Contact Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745, jmclane@phillynews.com. Follow @Jeff_McLane on Twitter.

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