DeMeco Ryans on Thursday was asked about the perception that he is not as effective in a 3-4 scheme as he is in a 4-3. The veteran linebacker cut in before the reporter had time to finish the question.
“Perception,” Ryans said with emphasis, followed by a laugh.
“It was a big perception that DeMeco doesn’t fit the 3-4. Whatever. I played in that defense. I played with the Texans in the 3-4 defense when we were the No. 1, No. 2 defense in the league. So if I didn’t fit in there, we wouldn’t have been that highly ranked.”
The year in question was 2011. The Texans flipped to a 3-4 when Wade Phillips took over as defensive coordinator. Houston went from being ranked 30th defensively in ’10 to No. 2 the following season. While the unit improved dramatically, Ryans’ numbers dipped. The player that routinely posted 100-plus tackle seasons in a 4-3 scheme had 64 tackles and no sacks in ’11.
It needs to be noted that Ryans was coming off an Achilles injury that year. And, in Phillips’ scheme, he was on the field a lot less. Ryans explained that the Texans deploy only one linebacker on passing downs, and that linebacker was Brian Cushing in ’11. The numbers back this notion up. According to Pro Football Focus, Ryans was on the field for 58.4 percent of the snaps his last year in Houston. He played 99.7 percent of the snaps for the Eagles last season, and ended up posting more tackles for a loss (16) and solo tackles (115) than any player during the Andy Reid era.
How much can be pinned on scheme change?
“It’s not as big of a difference as people make it seem. You still have your particular run fits, you still have certain coverages. You can only run so many coverages as a defense so those coverages don’t change whether you are in a 4-3 or a 3-4,” said Ryans.
“It’s all about being versatile. As a linebacker you have to be versatile –4-3, 3-4 — whatever it is this coaching staff is looking for me to do, I’m willing to do that. I’ve done both so I am open to whatever it is.”
It is unknown exactly what defensive coordinator Billy Davis has planned, though it is safe to say that the defense is moving away from a traditional 4-3 and will have more elements of a 3-4. Ryans noted that Davis was his defensive coordinator at the Senior Bowl when he was coming out of college, but otherwise doesn’t have a ton of familiarity with him. This is a brand new operation and everyone in the building is still getting to know one another.
The coaching staff has been adamant that they will cater to their players’ strengths. It is not totally clear what that means for Ryans. But the 28-year-old is open to whatever they have in mind.
“I know Chip is going to put us in the best position to win,” said Ryans, “so whatever that position is for me, whatever my role is for this team, that’s what I’m here to do.”
Sheil Kapadia contributed to this story.