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.

Penn State blasted at home by red-hot George Mason

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Penn State blasted at home by red-hot George Mason

BOX SCORE

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The cheers reverberating from George Mason's locker room came from players experiencing their hottest streak in years. The quiet from Penn State's mirrored the whimper of the Nittany Lions in the second half as their run was snapped.

Marquise Moore scored 25 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, Otis Livingston added 18 points and the Patriots beat Penn State 85-66 for their sixth straight win and best stretch since 2011-12 on Wednesday.

"It was a great win for our team, really proud of our guys," George Mason coach Dave Paulsen said. "We really, really competed with toughness in the second half, especially I think our second-half defense was really good."

Jalen Jenkins added 15 points for the Patriots (7-3) who snapped Penn State's four-game winning streak.

Penn State led 38-37 after a wild first half that featured 12 lead changes. But the Raiders took control starting with Livingston's 3-pointer that made it 42-40 early in the second. They dominated from there, leading for the remaining 18:58 and outrebounded the Nittany Lions 44-29, outscored them 44-16 in the paint and held a speedy Penn State team to just two fastbreak points.

"We looked young tonight for whatever reason," Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. "We have to figure that out. We have to play much harder."

Payton Banks led Penn State (6-4) with 21 points. Shep Garner and Lamar Stevens chipped in 13 apiece for the Nittany Lions.

The big picture
George Mason: The Patriots are on a roll and keeping pace in a competitive Atlantic 10 conference that had five teams with six wins entering the night. They seem to have flipped a switch following a 93-65 loss to Houston on Nov. 21 and haven't lost since.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions had been winning despite deficiencies in a few areas while making up for them in others over the last four games. They weren't able to make up for their lack of production in the paint, however.

Guards on the glass
Paulsen was wary of the size advantage Penn State's forwards had heading in. The Patriots didn't start anyone over 6-foot-7 while Penn State boasted a trio of forwards at or taller than that. Paulsen was particularly concerned about 6-foot-9 Mike Watkins who was fresh off his best game where he blocked 12 shots against Wright State.

But the George Mason coach had faith in his guards' ability to attack the net and win those rebounds. Moore entered the game as the country's top rebounding guard with 10 per game and posted his sixth double-double of the season.

"We have some pretty good rebounding guards," Paulsen said. "So you can't do it unless you have really active, rebounding guards."

Veteran responsibility
Penn State's gotten big time contributions from a handful of freshmen and started three as usual. But it was one of the veterans who shouldered blame afterward.

Banks was dejected after the game and pointed the finger at himself. Despite leading the team in points, he wasn't able to help on the glass.

"A lot of it just starts with me right here," Banks said. "I had zero rebounds. We can't rely on Lamar (Miller) and Mike for the scoring load and Julian (Moore). Our guards have to rebound and that's what we lacked this game and it definitely showed on the scoreboard."

Up next
George Mason plays at Penn on Saturday and has three of their final five games in 2016 at home.

Penn State plays Pittsburgh in Newark, New Jersey, on Saturday and has another on the road before closing out 2016 with a pair of games at home, including the Big Ten opener on Dec. 27.

Instant Replay: George Washington 66, Temple 63

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Instant Replay: George Washington 66, Temple 63

BOX SCORE

With one second on the shot clock, George Washington forward Tyler Cavanaugh let a three-point shot fly from the corner right in front of his bench.

Cavanaugh’s shot hit the bottom of the net to give the Colonials a three-point lead with 8.2 seconds left. Moments later, Temple redshirt senior swingman Daniel Dingle’s open look at a game-tying shot hit off the back of the rim, and George Washington handed the Owls a 66-63 loss on Wednesday at the Liacouras Center.

Temple (6-3) came into the game on a five-game winning streak but looked sluggish from the start. The Owls scored just five points in the game’s first six minutes, 34 seconds.

Temple went into halftime down, 31-25, and trailed George Washington (6-4) by as many as 15 points in the second half. Senior guard Josh Brown hit two threes late in the second half to bring Temple within six. Dingle hit two more to tie the game at 61-61 with 2:44 left. 

Two Cavanaugh free throws followed by a jumper from Temple sophomore guard Shizz Alston Jr. then tied the game at 63-63 with 39.1 seconds left.

The Owls played the game’s final moments without junior forward Obi Enechionyia, who fouled out with 3:41 left.

Enechionyia cooling off
Enechionyia was held in check for the second game in a row. He scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds but made only one basket in the second half.

The junior went 5 of 17 for 12 points against Penn on Saturday. He scored 20-plus points in five of Temple’s first seven games.

Inside the box score
• Colonials guard Jordan Roland came into the game averaging 4.3 points per game. Roland scored 14 points on Wednesday.

• Brown, who played his first game of the season last Wednesday against St. Joe’s, played a season-high 24 minutes. He played a combined 25 minutes in his first two contests.

• George Washington outrebounded Temple, 37-23. The Colonials had 18 turnovers compared to nine for Temple.

Up next
Temple plays DePaul in the Miami Hoophall Invitational on Saturday at 11:30 a.m.