Every defense needs an anchor -- a player who comes up with that big fourth-quarter stop, leads by example and leaves everything on the field.
For so many years with the Eagles, Brian Dawkins was that anchor, an unparalleled mainstay. Since his departure, it’s been a hodgepodge of almosts and not quites trying to fill his shoes.
Last season, the Eagles brought in DeMeco Ryans as the first top-flight middle linebacker since Jeremiah Trotter donned the midnight green.
In a rather forgettable season for the team as a whole, Ryans notched 113 total tackles, which was nearly twice as many as he had in 16 games with the Texans in the 2011 season. It was also his highest total since 2009 and his fourth-highest total in seven NFL seasons. The dude had a pretty good year.
But suddenly, the rug has been pulled out from under him. Out goes Andy Reid and in comes Chip Kelly, who more importantly brings with him the influx of a new 3-4 defensive scheme. With a sure tackler like Ryans, you would think a new scheme would simply equate to plug-and-play. The guy is dynamite in space and can lay his 6-foot-1, 250-pound frame on any opposing running back, right? Not so fast. Part of the reason the two-time Pro Bowler became expendable in Houston was because the Texans switched to a 3-4 defense.
Hmmm. Is Ryans expendable here in Philly? Or will the former Defensive Rookie of the Year thrive under an avant-garde head coach? Sing it with me (in your best Dionne Warwick voice): That’s what camp is for!
I am eagerly awaiting football season and the training camp battles that will ensue. Ryans is at the top of my list as the player I anticipate will emerge as the next surefire defensive leader. Training camp could reinforce what we already know, or show us something new when it comes to Ryans.
The Eagles certainly hope it does.