Eagles Wake-Up Call: Spelling DeMeco

NFL: Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles

The number for DeMeco Ryans last year was 1,156.

That’s how many snaps he played, the most of any linebacker in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders.

“I think if you ask DeMeco, he felt as fresh as he’s ever felt in his career,” said Chip Kelly last month. “But I think it’s a byproduct of how we practiced and prepared for him to be that way.”

Ryans is a Kelly favorite – a true professional who practices, trains and studies hard. But the truth is he did play too many snaps last year. And there were a few reasons for that. Number one, Billy Davis was installing a brand new defense and needed someone to direct a young group up front. That was Ryans’ job.

Number two, the Eagles didn’t like their depth behind Ryans. And number three, the defense did a poor job of getting off the field, allowing opponents to convert on third down 40.3 percent of the time (24th).

The Eagles played a base 3-4 in 2013. Their primary sub package was simple: the nose tackle comes off the field and Brandon Boykin trots out as a fifth defensive back. But Ryans and Mychal Kendricks always stayed put.

That could change, however, in 2014.

“I think you’d like to develop depth behind those guys so that they’re not playing every snap, but you’re still gonna play your best players,” Kelly said. “So you always have to make decisions. Is putting someone else in… is it just to get him out of the game? Or is that a good matchup for us? But I think that’s kind of a priority for us is developing depth behind those two guys [Ryans and Kendricks].”

The Eagles did not add that LB depth in free agency, which means it could be coming in May’s draft. Jason Phillips is coming off a torn ACL. Najee Goode showed some flashes when he got an opportunity. Jake Knott has been suspended for the first four games. And Emmanuel Acho barely played (88 snaps).

In other words, there are a lot of question marks behind Ryans and Kendricks.

“I think it’s gonna be personnel-based,” said Howie Roseman of the team’s sub packages. “It’s gonna be who we have on the team, who can fill those roles.”

Given his versatility, Kendricks is likely to stay on the field in most packages. Ryans, however, turns 30 in July, and his strength is against the run. It makes sense that the Eagles would look to add an inside linebacker who can cover in the draft.

Of course, given his nature and background, Kelly won’t easily admit that the high number of snaps is really such a big deal.

“We didn’t have any issues physically with those guys so I don’t see that,” he said. “It’s interesting when they always talk about how many snaps your defensive guys played when our offense played more than that. No one ever says your offense played more snaps. The most snaps I think were [Evan] Mathis and Lane Johnson. But no one ever says Lane and Evan played too many snaps. But it’s defensively they played too many snaps. Obviously you don’t want your defense to play a ton of snaps. You’d love to have those guys get ‘em off the field, but you also have to be able to practice and play that way.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

The Eagles hosted Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin yesterday.

They also took a look at Montana inside linebacker Jordan Tripp.

Jeremy Maclin takes center stage, writes T-Mac.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Greg A. Bedard of The MMQB weighs in on DeSean Jackson:

I think it’s ridiculous how some in the media overreact to stories reported by others, with the DeSean Jackson story being a prime example. To insinuate the Eagles smeared Jackson on the way out the door is just lazy. The story came out, he got released, there must be some connection. Why? From my experience as a beat writer, when you learn that a team is parting ways with a talented player like Jackson, you better be trying to find out why. When I was at the Boston Globe, I reported that the Patriots were likely going to release receiver Brandon Lloyd after a season in which he caught 74 passes because his erratic behavior had grown tiresome. Lloyd was later released and hasn’t played in the league again. By the Jackson rationale, the Patriots must leaked that information to me, right? I wish. My information didn’t come from the team. Jackson is not exactly a model player. He has a high salary. And he had curious connections to gang members. Those are not smear tactics; they’re called facts.

Redskins LT Trent Williams apparently did some campaigning for Jackson. From CSN Washington:

Shortly after DeSean Jackson was released by Philaldephia last month, Trent Williams reached for his cellphone and sent the former Eagles wide receiver a text message.

“I just asked him if [the Redskins] were even in the picture,” Williams said. “When he told me that they were talking, I just told him basically that we would love have a player of his caliber, and that our team would be willing to embrace him and try to do big things.”

COMING UP

Draft prep continues.

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