Anyone familiar with the Philadelphia Eagles is aware that the position of linebacker has been a revolving door in recent years. The team has been desperately, and ultimately unsuccessfully, seeking answers at the position. Even when they feel they have the right pieces on the roster, the coaches seem to be perplexed as to who should play where, shuffling the players around like a novice card dealer.
The team thought it had finally solved its conundrum at middle linebacker by trading for veteran standout DeMeco Ryans in the off-season. Ryans was brought in to be an every down linebacker and provide some stability at a position that sorely needed it. It now seems that Ryans may be the odd man out in the nickel package, which consists of five defensive backs, four linemen and two linebackers. Jamar Chaney has been receiving a healthy dose of starting reps in nickel situations alongside rookie Mychal Kendricks.
Ryans will be starting alongside Kendricks and Akeen Jordan in the team’s base defense, but it is possible that Chaney has unseated him in the nickel. Ryans handled the situation with his usual veteran class when asked about the situation, saying, “Whatever the coaches tell us to do, it’s what we do. It’s no big deal to me.”
Ryans obviously has the skill set to be an every down linebacker, but the assimilation into a new defense is never easy. It is taking some time to get him up to speed, but even if he is not the main option in the nickel defense to start the year, I expect him to be there before long. Had the team been satisfied with their current linebacking corps they would not have looked outside of the organization for help.
Linebacker is a key component of the Eagles wide 9 defensive scheme, as running plays are frequently funneled into the middle of the field. Philadelphia brought in Ryans to solidify that position, and I feel that is exactly what he will do, including situations when the team is in a nickel defense.