All-22: Entering the ‘Ryans Zone’

ryans_all22_400After a rocky start to the season, Billy Davis and his assistants have done an excellent job of coming up with ways to maximize the abilities of the Eagles’ defensive players.

The scheme change has been dramatic, and there are still areas in need of a talent upgrade in the offseason. But overall, Davis’ group has made great strides throughout the course of the season.

The leader of the group is DeMeco Ryans, and according to Pro Football Focus, he’s logged more snaps than any other defensive player in football. Ryans is outstanding against the run. That has never been in question. And as we’ve written about at length, he makes the calls on defense to get everyone set up. Without him on the field, there would likely be a lot of confusion up front.


Ryans, however, is not a great cover linebacker. Offenses that can get him matched up man-to-man against a running back or tight end will have an advantage. In zone, Ryans often tries to keep opponents in front of him and limit the damage after the catch.

But there's another way he's contributing in coverage too - by disrupting shallow routes over the middle.

The 'chuck rule' allows defenders to make contact with opponents within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. And Ryans is using that to his advantage.

For example, take this play from Week 11. Wide receiver Aldrick Robinson is going to run a shallow crossing route.

ryans1a_all22_112513

Ryans is going to be responsible for him. But instead of trying to run with the wide receiver, he decides his best course of action is to level Robinson. Because he's within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, this is legal.

ryans1b_all22_112513

Robert Griffin III wants to go to Robinson, but Ryans shoves him forward, disrupting the timing of the play.

ryans1c_all22_112513

You can see Ryans knocks Robinson 3 yards off where his original route was being run. You can also see that had he whiffed, Robinson would have been wide open with plenty of space to pick up yards after the catch.

But because Ryans threw off the timing of the play, Griffin had to hesitate. By that time, Trent Cole had beat Trent Williams and gotten a hold of Griffin for the sack.

***

Similar concept earlier in the game.

Here, Ryans is going to initially show blitz up at the line of scrimmage.

ryans2a_all22_112513

This is a way to mess with teams' protections. Because of where Ryans is stationed, the left guard has to be prepared to account for him. You'll notice that Fletcher Cox is lined up at the nose, and Cole is at right defensive end. By threatening Ryans as a rusher, both those players should initially get one-one-one blocks.

ryans2b_all22_112513

Ryans takes a step forward to sell the blitz and occupy the left guard. He then drops back into coverage just in time to find Leonard Hankerson running a crossing route.

ryans2c_all22_112513

Ryans is a help defender here. The Eagles are in man coverage, and Boykin has Hankerson. But the wide receiver enters the "Ryans Zone" within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. That means he's getting hit.

ryans2d_all22_112513

Griffin went in another direction with the ball, but you can see that Ryans once again threw off the timing of the receiver's route.

For someone like Ryans who never comes off the field but isn't great in coverage, it's important to find ways to still affect the passing game. Season stats show he has a pair of sacks and two interceptions. Ryans' contribution in disrupting the timing of routes doesn't show up in the box score, but shouldn't go unnoticed.

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  • EaglefaninAZ

    Excellent article as usual. Ryans is getting it done whenever possible, which is pretty much every defensive play. Lol…

  • nicksaenz1

    I didn’t realize before this past week that Ryans is only 28. Feels like he’s much older. Hope he’s around a few more years.

    • bentheimmigrant

      Yeah, it’s from all the people planning his replacement. Let him reach 30 before we start talking about that.

      • Andy124

        Guilty as charged. I totally lost site of how young he is. In fact, I was going to write something about how important a good quarterback for the defense is and we need to hurry up and get someone trained up who can fill that role when Ryans is done.

        Anybody get the very vague impression and Kendriks is the D-quarterback type?

        • bentheimmigrant

          I don’t think you could tell until he really grasps his own responsibilities. But once he’s really settled in, I think he might. They were thinking about it in the offseason.

          • Andy124

            deleted

        • Adam

          Ryans and Davis were praising him earlier in the season for being more vocal and understanding the D more, FWIW.

        • theycallmerob

          apparently the coaches did, since he’s the one wearing the helmet mic. *
          I’m also still holding out hope for Knott, he has a lot of those character intangibles akin to Ryans. Would love to see him develop into a quality backup and future starter.

          * (edit)- remember this from PS, but cannot find link for evidence

          • bentheimmigrant

            Is he still wearing it? I could have sworn it went back to Ryans during preseason. Maybe I just assumed that.

          • theycallmerob

            after I posted that, just spent a bit trying to find a link. If I remember right, it was something Davis or Kelly said re: changes for this season. I’ll edit the post to include an ” * “

          • bentheimmigrant

            Went back to the season opener… Definitely Ryans with the sticker.

      • nicksaenz1

        Yeah, he’s making 7 mil the next 2 seasons, none of which is guaranteed, so he can come off the books at no expense. That’s why you hear the talk. We’ll see what happens with him after the season. I think his deal gets re-worked. That said, you always have to be planning a replacement, regardless the reason.

        • bentheimmigrant

          Yeah, we should def have good depth, but I’ve seen a lot of comments that were basically, “Replacing Ryans is a top priority before it’s too late”.

          • GEAGLE

            Few players have more value to Chip and Davis than Ryan…he will retire as an eagle.His contract needs to get re-done, but ts not going an issue…doubt we are drafting ILBs this year. it’s more likely that we take a 7th round or Undrafted flier on one..

            you guys need to remember that we get Jason Phillips back next year, and I expect him to be a part of this team for the next 2-3 years so we have:
            Meco
            Mykal
            Phillips
            Acho
            Goode
            Knott
            ….
            The earliest we would draft an ILB in the first 4 rounds in 2015

          • theycallmerob

            replace Matthews (OLB) with Knott in your list. otherwise, I agree, though maybe a little earlier than 7th (5th or 6th rd)

          • GEAGLE

            Forgot about him..thanks…does Casey contract expire at the end of the year? When healthy that’s a nice stable of LB..both defensively and ST

          • theycallmerob

            on books for ’14. ~750 k, 100 guar.- 650k savings if cut

          • nicksaenz1

            Who cares if it does expire. It’s worth it to eat whatever little dead money he has left at this point.

      • GEAGLE

        Agreed!! Drives me crazy that people already talk about drafting someone for him to groom. I wouldn’t draft an ILB this year. Continue to develope Acho and Goode, and hope you find another “Goode” type or better. Meco starts ATleast another two years for us…

        as for the “Ryan zone”, I love that you have this some attention with an All22…Next time you guys watch the raiders or GB game, watch Meco. He was really blowing routes up left and right in those games..Meco will retire as an Eagle..I think Chip, Howie, Billy all really value what he brings to the field and to our locker room..he is a very intelligent hard working veteran….and he will extend his career once his skills diminish, thru crafty play…I expect him to be our London Fletcher, but he wot stick around as long as that fossil.


        We need to re-do Meco’s contract and keep him here for another 3 years, starting ATleast 2 of those years

        • cliff henny

          ryans just needs to see less snaps. where getting rush olb would really help. in 3-3-5 play barwin, kendricks mack/beasley. there’s a place for ryans as mlb, especially way logan kept him clean, on 1st and 2nd down, for sure.

          • GEAGLE

            I think with the emergence of Goode, he should get a few snaps sprinkled in here and there also

    • Adam

      Same with Barwin only being 27.

    • cliff henny

      foles playing he has outside dallas game changes everything. pre-season looked like most of this draft was going to be used for qb, and needed to find as much money as possible to get impact free agents. is bit of surprise to see he’s only 28. yeah, extend him, these guys always want that guarenteed money.

      • nicksaenz1

        In the spirit of couch GM’ing, I’d recommend 4yrs 25-26mil, 8-10 guaranteed depending on any awards for this season’s play. Guarantee enough of it in the first 2 years that escaping in year 3 isn’t too attractive but not impossible, and year 4 leaves you no reservations if his play isn’t there.

  • randaz81

    Davis should be commended for figuring out what his player’s strengths are using them in his scheme. This is a great example. Why run with someone who is faster than you; just use your strength and disrupt the pattern. Simple but very smart.

    • Adam

      I hate to be a party pooper but this is something Ryans did last season as well, credit to Davis but also Ryans deserves most of it. Just a great, savvy, vet move.

  • PaoliBulldog

    My concern with Ryans wasn’t his age but rather that Achilles tear in 2010. The fact that he plays virtually every defensive snap still worries me — but also shows that he healed pretty well.

  • GEAGLE

    Like to get your opinions on the safeties. Kurt, Colt and Nate all hit FRee agency. Chung and Wolff are under contract.

    I’m proud of Nate and I was wrong about him, but I doubt he will be here next year. Howie isn’t going to outbid teams for Nate! and someone will want him. Wolff is a lock for next year and you can’t have both Chung and Nate! one needs to be upgraded. Chung us under contract, Nate isn’t thus Chung stays, Nate gets replaced with someone like Byrd, Ward,Clemons or Dix..

    Now we have see just how important ST is in deciding our backups. So I’m curious to hear some opinions:
    1) Does Coleman or Colt get signed for ST?
    2) what kind of deal will Nate sign in FA?
    3) How much of an investment would Byrd require?
    ….
    Sounds crazy but I don’t think I would be happy about losing both Colt and Kurt..I guess I would sign Colt, let Kurt walk, and Chung goes from starter to taking over Kurt’s role, backup and ST BEAST. That would give us a nice ST core:
    Colt Anderson
    Chung
    Goode
    Jason Phillips.. Dude could be our Ike Reese
    Polk
    Cooper (if we bring him back while adding a true starter making Coop Depth)

    • Andy124

      Based on starting experience alone, I would think Coleman would net a bigger contract than Colt, meaning, keep Colt. I think Colt is better on ST too, so that makes it a no brainer for me.

      I’m willing to wait and see if there’s anymore improvement in Nate’s game the rest of the year before I form an opinion on him. I think the scenario you laid out is the most likely one, but I’m not inking that in yet.

      • GEAGLE

        Agreed on Colt/Kurt

        Even if Nate plays lights out the next 5 games, I have a hard time passing on going after some pretty darn good safeties and trust Nate enough to start him the net 3 years…

        keeping Nate isn’t going to be cheap like keeping Kurt or Colt…I ALWAYS wary of guys who play their best during contract years, but this is Tricky because of the coaching and scheme changes…
        ..
        I look at Jarius Byrd! and I don’t question whether I would be ok starting him for the next 3 years…I can’t say that about Nate???so why gamble? Spend a few extra dollars and let’s give us the best odds of Getting it RIGHT…after this offseason, I don’t want to worry about safeties for ATleast 3 years…been worrying about safeties too much. Let’s get it RIGHT!!!

        • Andy124

          I’d love Byrd, but knowing we could sign Nate at a reasonable price as a backup plan gives us leverage. And there is a point at which even Byrd would be overpaid. Not that I’d expect Howie to sign a contract like that, that’s just not Howie roll, it’d be good to have that leverage.

          • nicksaenz1

            “That’s just not ‘Howie’ roll” hahaha nice.

    • theycallmerob

      I disagree with the bit about Chung being here; he hasn’t played well at all, Wolff developed and took his spot, and he’s due 3.25 mil in ’14 and 3.75 mil in ’15. However, neither year has any guaranteed money; no dead $ on cap if cut. Get rid of him, or sign him back to vet. minimum. Nothing about him screams “ST beast” to me. A late pick or UDFA would do just as well.
      Not sure how Coleman and Colt are as STers this year, but if I had to go only one I’d take Colt.
      I’d also take Nate back for no more than 3.5/4 mil a year, if his play the rest of the year continues to improve.

      • cliff henny

        chunger is 1m dead next yr if cut. following is none. i’d cut him, think you are right, can find someone late rd or udfa. he was like casey, before draft just insurance, allowed for bpa. also axing casey. bring back harbor, maybe get dutch back posting!

        • theycallmerob

          where do you see the $1 mil dead? is this wrong?
          and if you’re correct, I’d still take a $1 mil hit
          http://www.overthecap.com/cap.php?Name=Patrick%20Chung&Position=S&Team=Eagles

          • cliff henny

            http://eaglescap.com/Players/GeoffreyPope.html
            not sure why it comes up pope, but it’s chung on that site(pretty detailed on all eagles contracts). oh, goto cowboys cap next yr…yeah, jer-bear, you are doing a great job

          • Adam

            GET OUTTA MY HEAD

          • theycallmerob

            obliged.

          • cliff henny

            the other team that’s really interesting to look at is NE. they have over 60 players getting dead money this yr. guess BB just brings in volume and only a few get that 2nd contract money.

          • bentheimmigrant
          • cliff henny

            figure draft picks cost 10m. who is he cutting, really no one that has major difference b/t salary and dead money? guess extend ware. but huge difference between forced extension and extending guy like ryans. look at carr’s contract. know they extended him. they already renegotiated 6 or 7 contracts to get under this yr. it’s a freaking time bomb.

          • bentheimmigrant

            Yeah… I went through an cut everyone with dead money under $1mil. 33 guys. And that barely got under the cap.

            This should be the Mensa exam.

          • cliff henny

            well, ya have to pay 53, nflpa says so, so cutting those guys does help. everyone making over 2m is basically upside down. dallas may not even be able to draft this yr. the only way is to etend more guys, so less cap this yr,but more dead money in ’16 and ’17. it’s a house of cards. CAN’T WAIT!
            .
            i get the disgust for howie coming into this yr, but he is really good at managing cap.
            .
            never saw that part of site, allows you to extend, make up contracts, that’s really cool

          • bentheimmigrant

            Just saw you can stipulate a June 1 cut… Looks like we better be watching the scrapheap next summer. Might be able to get a player or two.

          • cliff henny

            wow, that makes a world of difference. have to read up on why june 1st cuts help. well, cutting cole and graham june 1st takes them from 8m dead to 3.2m dead, combined. toss in williams, he’s only 1.5m. extended peters 3ys 18m, ryans and cooper 3yrs 15m, jax 3yrs 24m, all w/5m signing bonuses, cut celek casey and benn…eagles had 40m to use in free agency. i’m going to play with that tonight.

          • theycallmerob

            i’m excited for you. some info for the class:

            After June 1, the team can stretch their salary cap liability over the next 2 seasons. Let’s look at our example above, where a player signs a big contract for 4 years, including a $1 million signing bonus.
            If the player is cut after the first year of the contract, the remaining $750,000 of the “un-amoratized” signing bonus hits the cap immediately (accelerates). However, if he is cut after June 1, the team can spread that money over Year 2 and 3 of the contract instead of taking the full brunt of the cap hit in Year 2.
            Doing this will save $500,000 against the cap hit for Year 2.

            Clearly, this practice is a nice way of freeing up cap space in a given year. Note, however, that the money still has to be accounted for against the cap — and the remaining $500,000 that was never accounted for will hit the cap in Year 3. In essence, many NFL teams have mortgaged their future by overusing this practice, whereby they continue to pay against the cap for players who have not been on the roster for over a year.

            for Jerrah? still bad
            with regard to some of our guys? if they do go younger at some spots, I guess this simply frees up even more cap space for ’14?
            http://www.askthecommish.com/SalaryCap/faq.aspx

          • cliff henny

            i have literally turned off the phones…cliff henny enterprises is officially close for the holidays…lol.
            .
            so, it’s probably something the eagles wont use often. i like graham being june 1st, cause really cutting whenever doesnt matter much money wise. frees up position.
            .
            did dallas, they have to june 1st ware witten carr austin, and that gets them 1m under, still 9m more to go to sign draft picks.

          • nicksaenz1

            You are determined to get rid of Graham.

          • cliff henny

            you might like that salary cap, signing/cutting players. hardest part is figuring out guarentees and signing bonuses.
            .
            thought you wantedto get rid of him? i want him to sit on bench for a yr, along with cole. both make some sense doing june 1st, eagles are actually better off in ’15 than ’14, could spread hits out over 2 yrs. basically end up being same in ’15 either way.

          • nicksaenz1

            I wasn’t for getting rid of him, w/o the June 1 option its the same to keep or cut him and it’s not like he’s useless. I’m for letting Cole go, especially now that using the June 1 method it’s almost a no-brainer.

          • theycallmerob

            you’d better post this somewhere.

            some additional considerations:

            http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/7744901/nfl-soaring-revenues-coincide-salary-cap-growth (posted above as well, but this may effect your calculations)

          • cliff henny

            why i kept guarenteed yrs to 2. sal cap should be stagnant till ’16. not like eagles go much past 3 on anyone. even doing all that above, still would have 50m in ’16, plus herreman and williams, so closer to 60m. it’s pretty hard to mess up eagles sal cap right now.

          • bentheimmigrant

            Yeah, it really does. Dallas are still in trouble though… Here’s a pretty good breakdown of where they can cut and restructure and save, but it still ain’t pretty.
            http://overthecap.com/dallas-cowboys-navigating-the-salary-cap/

          • cliff henny

            like the part about dallas walking to ’13 nfceast title. then they have to move heaven and earth to get under again in ’14. best part is all cowboys fans think romo is only 3 yr extension, well, it’s not, they planned on re-extend him 2 more yrs just to get under . romo is basically dallas’ starting qb till 2018, age 38, probably ’19 too. so,’14 is same team as ’13, just yr older, and the shizzy hits the fan in in ’15.
            .
            thank you howie!

          • bentheimmigrant

            How amazing could that final game be? This year is their window, and we have the chance to shut it.

          • nicksaenz1

            This sounds like entirely too much fun.

          • cliff henny

            not sure if you are serious or not…but i just cracked open a beer and am pretty much done for the day.

          • nicksaenz1

            While I don’t have the appropriate refreshments, I’m 100% serious. Everyone will have the opportunity to get cut and see the damage.

          • cliff henny

            i’m going with basically 3yr contracts, 2 yrs guarenteed, put in 3-5m range of signing bonuses, like jax get 5m, but ryans gets 3. i’ll post link…hope howie is one this site…he’ll mail me a straight jacket after he sees this!!!
            .
            and cole and graham are july 1 cuts!!!!

          • nicksaenz1

            I’m having a blast over here. So it won’t let me restructure Peters, but I restructured Herremans. Maclin, 3 year deal worth about 13mil, 4mil signing bonus, extended Thornton and Coop for deals not too dissimilar, altho Coop’s is more of a earn it type deal. June 1st got used a lot. Cole, Casey, Avant, Graham, Chung and Maehl all gone, June 1st where I could, cut if not available. ERFA on Geathers, brought back Allen at no more than 3/yr. Colt Ander and Donnie Jones on 2yr deals. This is so much f’n fun.

          • Andy124

            But do we really want to sacrifice a bunch of 2015 cap space for the sake of more cap space in 2014 where we already have a ton of space?

          • nicksaenz1

            Gotta leave wiggle room to make a couple FA signings and some draft class money. That said I’m just playing with this at the moment. Not putting too much thought into it. It’s 4:15, so I’m kind of shut down for the day.

          • cliff henny

            when looking at it, it gives ’14 cap at 142m, counts roll over. ’15 and beyond, doesnt count. eagles will always have some wiggle room. so mine at 39m under, kelce needs extending too, have to sign about 10 more players including picks, fletcher needs extending too. even if eagles go nuts and sign like this, still have plenty of room in future

          • cliff henny

            have to extend peters since no dead money. i didnt do anything with herremanns..
            .
            jax…3yrs/24m, 2yrs guar with 5m signing bonus
            jp…3yrs/18m 2yrs guar with 4m sign
            ryans…3 yrs/15m 2yrs guar w/ 4m signing bonus
            donnie jones 1yr/1m
            maclin 2yrs/4m 1yr guar with 1m signing bonus
            riley 3yrs / 15m with 2 yrs guan and 3m signing bonus
            byrd (used allen slot) 5yrs/45m 3 yrs guar with 9m sign
            cut…GRAHAM!!! COLE!!!! celek casey avant benn
            .
            still 41m under, and 34m under in ’15 with herremanns and williams coming off…lurie, i’m available !!!! ’16, 53m under.
            .
            forgot thorton. give him 3yrs/9m with 2 yrs guar and 2m signing bonus.
            .
            jeffy better get out his wallet…i just spent about 30m of his mommy’s money!!!!

          • nicksaenz1

            It wouldn’t let me restructure JP. I have to try again.

            Extension, not restructure. I don’t like the restructure.

          • cliff henny

            sorry, 31m. really wouldnt have to give jax, peters and ryans signing bonuses, just guarentees. and thornton get a little bone, like 1m. riley and byrd would want upfront cash.
            .
            that site is sick!!!! all that, have 39m under in ’14, ’31m under in ’15.

          • nicksaenz1

            I was at 29, 25, and 31 when I stopped because I had to accomplish other things. Love this site though.

          • nicksaenz1

            That cap situation just made my day.

          • theycallmerob

            even more hilarious- that site’s cap predictions run on the high side :)

            http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/7744901/nfl-soaring-revenues-coincide-salary-cap-growth

          • nicksaenz1

            On the over the cap calculator, when you cut Chung it says $0.

            EDIT: NVM. Same site, so that would make sense.

          • cliff henny

            i know, i go with eagles cap. but, 1m here and there…jesus, wouldnt it be nice to be able to say that about yourself….really doesnt matter

          • Adam

            http://eaglescap.com/Players/GeoffreyPope.html

            Not sure why the link says Geoffrey Pope but according to this 1m of 2014 is guaranteed.

          • cliff henny

            downvote, for being 30 secs late!

          • theycallmerob

            well that was downright adorable.

      • GEAGLE

        Really? No dead money for Chunger? Interesting…
        ..
        I like the way Nates playing. If he were under contract for another year I wouldn’t be calling for his head. I would be ok starting him another year…but to bring him back, you have to bid on him on the open market..we wouldn’t be the only team offering him a contract..and if we have to go thru that, we might as well try and upgrade him.

        i wouldn’t want to keep Chung on this team as a starter. But he is exactly the type of versatile player I suspect Chip wants on our bench:
        1) backup at safety
        2) backup Nickle
        3) ST beast
        4) Good locker room guy

        We have seen better players lose a backup spot because their competition was a better ST player..Nate won’t contribute enough on ST to be a backup on a Chip Kelly team, so the question becomes:
        After seeing Nate significantly improve after the first 4 games, do you want to sign Nate as your starting safety for ATleast the next 3 seasons?

        I have a very hard time completely forgetting the past 3 years, and only going by performance in a contract year. Has Nate played so well that we should go after him and pass on Byrd,Ward,Clemons,haha Dix, Craig Loston?

        I would certainly bring back Colt…let Coleman walk

      • bentheimmigrant

        I’ve been noticing Boykin more than anyone on teams, but I’m not sure I want him as a permanent STs leader. Colt always shows up… #30 always seems to pop into the screen pretty quick when the ball comes down.

        Coleman definitely has more value as a backup S than Colt. I wouldn’t mind keeping him, as he is serviceable back there, even if you don’t want to see much of him. He’s probably one of the best 4th string S you’re going to find.

        • theycallmerob

          Fair point. I’ve never hated Coleman, the guy just has more heart and grit than talent.
          Give ‘em both 1 year minimum deals (got Cole for 1yr/1mil in ’13, Coleman came in at league min. and shouldn’t earn much more than that), draft a S and maybe bring one in by way of FA. Some healthy competition shouldn’t hurt.

          • bentheimmigrant

            Yeah, the main issue is competition. Ideally (if Allen/Wolff is not the long term solution) our next starting safety comes up through the ranks. I’d rather not spend big to put a guy straight in. But the developmental spot can be Chung’s – we knew he wouldn’t be great in coverage, but that hit on Cole was the last straw for me.

    • cliff henny

      sure, bring back colt, he costs what every other 5th safety/st’r costs, doing a good job.
      .
      byrd needs 5 yrs/45m with 18m guarneteed to even be in consideration. i just dont know how much kelly values safeties. look at belichek, think he had 3 rookies playing last night. can see going with clemmons or ward,cheaper version, like loston and clinton-dix, but belicheck can get away with all those rookies back there, not sure i’m comfortable with 2nd yr and rookie manning safeties.

      • GEAGLE

        Gotta pony up the money for Byrd, because he makes us set at the CB position…The CBs we have In place can e good enough with an improved passrush and a playmaker roaming center field

  • Adam

    We’re wearing the blacks against the Cards. Anyone have our record in those jerseys? Is this a good thing or bad? I need to know this… for reasons.

    • cliff henny

      wesley snipes reasons?

    • Corey Dawson

      All previous records don’t matter. New coaching staff, new scheme, and tons of new starters. This will be the first game of the new record tracking there.