Is Philadelphia Eagles DeMeco Ryans Still An Every-Down NFL Linebacker?

By Frank Benditt III

The Philadelphia Eagles acquisition of former Houston Texan middle linebacker, DeMeco Ryans, was supposed to be the answer for the team’s middle defensive woes.  The Eagles’ front office, coaches and fans believed Ryans would be the middle linebacker the team was lacking for the last five years.  Sometimes, a marquee name may be just a marquee name and not the player everyone expected. Is DeMeco Ryans that guy?

During  his tenure, Andy Reid has never put a premium on the linebacker position.  This ideology seemed strange because many other NFL teams consider the middle linebacker position extremely important.  In fact, the middle linebacker is most often considered the ‘Quarterback’ of the defense, and in most cases the definitive leader.

In DeMeco Ryans, the Eagles added a former 2006 defensive rookie of the year and a two-time pro-bowler.  Ryans was drafted 33rd overall by the Texans out of the University of Alabama.  In his rookie season, Ryans started all sixteen games, accumulating 155 tackles with 3.5 sacks along the way.  From 2006-2009, DeMeco Ryans averaged 129.5 tackles per season.

The Eagles have not had that kind of production out of the middle linebacking position under the Andy Reid regime.  Former Eagles middle linebacker, Jeremiah Trotter, peaked out at 119 tackles in his heyday.

In 2010, Ryans ruptured his Achilles tendon six games into the season. Ryans was able to quickly bounce back to start the 2011 season. An Achilles  injury typically takes an entire year to fully heal, however, DeMeco played in all 16 games for the Texans last season.  His production was considerably down (64 tackles), however, Ryans leadership was admired by the Texans front office, coaches and players.

In fact, many Texan players consider Ryans the heart and soul of the team.  In Houston, Ryans departure was met with great surprise and lament.  Eagles fans can relate when former safety, Brian Dawkins, left the team.

The Eagles felt that with a year removed from the injury, DeMeco Ryans could be forceful player.  During this preseason, Ryans has shown little impact.  In fact, some insiders like 97.5 The Fanatic’s Brian Baldinger, question if DeMeco is the same player he was.  On his afternoon radio show (12pm-2pm weekdays), Baldinger has repeatedly stated that he expects the Eagles to replace Ryans on third down with linebacker Jamar Chaney.  Baldinger’s concerns are with DeMeco’s sideline to sideline explosion coming off of major knee surgery and his ability to shed blocks in the running game.

The 2012 regular season is just around the corner.  The question will be if the Eagles have gotten a pro-bowl caliber player or just a pro-bowl caliber name.


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