First Down? DeMeco Ryans. Second Down? DeMeco Ryans. Third Down...

First Down? DeMeco Ryans. Second Down? DeMeco Ryans. Third Down...

That's his name, so don't want to wear it out -- especially before one real game has been played.

The
hope was that DeMeco Ryans would come over from the Houston Texans and
stabilize a linebacker corps that was woefully in over their heads just a
season ago. Unfairly or not, his arrival has been met with mixed
reviews thus far -- I'll go on the record as siding with "unfairly."
Nonetheless, the seventh-year veteran's athleticism has been called into
question since an Achilles injury struck in 2010, and the idea he is
still a three-down player is exactly that: an idea.

An idea that
is one step closer to fiction after practice on Thursday, where Jamar
Chaney reportedly took most of the snaps in nickel packages for the
Eagles. We have no way of knowing what the plan actually is until
Sunday, but it sounds an awful lot like the coaches intend to dip into
their depth quite a bit, further supporting the storyline Ryans might
not be the cure-all we had hoped.

For those of you waiting for
Kulp Spadaro to somehow spin this development into a positive, I'm not
going to do that. Upon sending a fourth-round pick to Houston to acquire
Ryans during the offseason, the Eagles declared a three-down linebacker
was bringing his talents to Philadelphia. With the regular season
suddenly upon us, the coaching staff has suggested they are not so
comfortable with Ryans in coverage.

It's not very difficult to
see where they are coming from, either. Learning a new system or not,
Ryans doesn't look particularly speedy. For whatever it's worth, he
didn't make a single outstanding play in coverage during the preseason.
Heck, part of the reason the Texans sent him here was because they
weren't using him on passing downs, so none of this should come as
terribly surprising.

But does this latest development mean
trading for Ryans was a misstep? Even assuming coverage could be a
problem, many have expected "more" from a two-time Pro Bowler. While it
is true his body of work has been more than that of a merely adequate linebacker, his
status as a superstar may have been vastly overblown.

Ryans was never
an amazing athlete, nor was he an incredible playmaker. Just look at the
stats. He didn't do anything special in coverage. He wasn't remarkable
rushing the passer. Yet whatever it is he did, he was widely considered
one of the better linebackers in the NFL.

My opinion is once the
real thing finally gets started, fans will be happy with Ryans. For all
the talk of expectations, few seem to truly understand what the Eagles
have brought in to the middle of their defense -- a leader, physically
imposing, who understands his role and will demonstrate how to tackle.

DeMeco Ryans as a three-down linebacker? Eh... we'll see. As a major upgrade over what the Eagles had a year ago? Duh.

Best of NBA: Curry, Warriors demolish Cavaliers, 126-91, at home

Best of NBA: Curry, Warriors demolish Cavaliers, 126-91, at home

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors certainly looked ready to trade some more blows with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers come June.

The two-time reigning MVP hit five 3-pointers and had 20 points while matching his season best with 11 assists in Golden State's 126-91 rout of the defending champs Monday.

Klay Thompson scored 26 points with five 3s, and Curry made four steals. Draymond Green produced his third triple-double of the season with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists while matching his career best with five blocks -- and had another dustup with King James in the process.

James had 20 points on 6-of-18 shooting and eight rebounds, and he and Green became the talk once more as their relationship turned even more testy.

Kevin Durant added 21 points, six rebounds, five assists and three blocks for the Warriors in a much-hyped matchup merely weeks after Golden State lost 109-108 in Cleveland on Christmas (see full recap).

Thomas explodes for 17 in fourth quarter to lift Celtics over Hornets
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas scored 17 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter, and the surging Boston Celtics beat the Charlotte Hornets 108-98 on Monday night for their ninth victory in 11games.

It was Thomas' 25th straight game with 20 or more points. He's been putting up big final quarters of late -- scoring 20 or more three times this season. No other NBA player had done it more than once entering Monday.

Al Horford had 22 points, while Kelly Olynyk and Jae Crowder added 15 apiece for Boston, which has won all three meetings with Charlotte this season.

Kemba Walker scored 24 points and Marvin Williams 21 for the Hornets, who lost their fifth straight -- all on the road.

Thomas scored 13 straight points, pushing Boston ahead 93-83 with his 3-pointer from the left wing with 7 minutes left.

Boston led 80-71 entering the final period (see full recap).

Wizards remain hot with win over Trail Blazers
WASHINGTON  -- Bradley Beal scored 25 points and John Wall had 24 as the Washington Wizards took a page from the Portland Trail Blazers' playbook by hitting 13 3-pointers in a comfortable 120-101 victory on Monday afternoon.

The Wizards, who rely less on the 3-pointer than almost any NBA team, were 13 of 23 from beyond the arc in their 12th consecutive home victory. The 3-pointer-heavy Trail Blazers shot 8 of 26 on 3-point attempts.

After Washington coach Scott Brooks called Portland guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum as good as any backcourt in the league, Beal and John Wall outplayed them. Lillard led the Blazers with 22 points and McCollum had 12, but they combined to shoot 11 of 29 from the floor.

The Wizards have won four of their last five games (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Penguins halt Capitals 9-game streak with wild 8-7 OT win

Best of NHL: Penguins halt Capitals 9-game streak with wild 8-7 OT win

PITTSBURGH -- Conor Sheary scored 34 seconds into overtime and the Pittsburgh Penguins ended the Washington Capitals' nine-game winning streak with a wild 8-7 victory Monday night that included nine second-period goals.

Sheary had two goals and an assist for the Penguins, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Evgeni Malkin picked up his 11th career hat trick during a frenetic second period, and Sidney Crosby collected his NHL-leading 27th goal to go with two assists. Bryan Rust and Nick Bonino also scored for Pittsburgh, and Matt Murray got the win despite allowing seven goals on 28 shots.

The Penguins trailed 3-0 before scoring six goals in less than 11 minutes in the second period, more goals than the Capitals had allowed in a game all season. Pittsburgh led 6-5 after 40 minutes.

Lars Eller scored twice for Washington, and T.J. Oshie, Brett Connolly, Nicklas Backstrom, Justin Williams and Andre Burakovsky also found the net. Philipp Grubauer made eight saves after coming on in relief of Braden Holtby, who was pulled during Pittsburgh's second-period deluge (see full recap).

Eichel scores twice to give Sabres' 4-1 win over Stars
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Jack Eichel scored two goals and the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Dallas Stars 4-1 on Monday.

Tyler Ennis scored 19 seconds into the first period. Ennis returned after missing 30 games with a groin injury that required surgery.

Jake McCabe also had a goal and Robin Lehner made 31 saves after missing the past three games with an illness.

The Sabres snapped a two-game losing streak and beat the Stars for the first time in four matchups.

Radek Faksa scored for the Stars in the opener of a three-game road trip. Kari Lehtonen stopped 25 shots. Dallas has lost two in a row and six of eight (see full recap).

Bishop anchors Lightning to 2-1 win over Kings
LOS ANGELES -- Brian Boyle scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period, and the Tampa Bay Lightning opened a six-game road trip with a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.

Ben Bishop made an early mistake that led to Kyle Clifford's goal for the Kings, but bounced back to make 31 saves in his second start back from a three-week absence with a lower-body injury.

Tyler Johnson scored in the first period for the Lightning, who won for just the second time in seven games.

Peter Budaj stopped 27 shots for the Kings.

Both teams played without stars due to illness. Kings captain Anze Kopitar missed his first game since Nov. 20, and All-Star defenseman Victor Hedman missed his first game of the season for Tampa Bay (see full recap).