Eagles Wake-Up Call: DeMeco’s Role Unlikely To Change

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

During one of the teach periods on Monday, defensive coordinator Billy Davis called for the first-team nickel to take the field and line up against trash cans that simulated the offense.

Brandon Boykin came on the field, and Bennie Logan walked off. But at linebacker, DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks stayed put.


Chip Kelly said earlier this offseason that adding depth at inside linebacker was a priority. But the Eagles didn't see anybody they liked in free agency. In the first round of the draft, they would have loved for Alabama's C.J. Mosley to fall to them, but that didn't happen either.

So for now, the plan seems to be to stick with the same guys from a year ago.

"Right now, it’s still the same personnel," Ryans confirmed.

The 30-year-old played more snaps than any other linebacker in the game last year. He has many strengths: leadership, smarts and the ability to diagnose plays and pound opposing running backs.

Those strengths, however, are not in the pass game - whether that's coverage or rushing the quarterback. The Eagles ranked 24th in third-down defense last year, allowing opponents to convert at a 40.3 percent clip. Obviously, there were multiple reasons for that, from the lack of a consistent pass-rush to poor safety play. But replacing Ryans with a cover linebacker in obvious passing situations and lightening his workload would have made sense.

Of course, no one should expect Ryans to support that viewpoint. He's started every game since the Eagles acquired him during the 2012 offseason and does not want to come off the field.

"I’m a competitor," he said. "It doesn’t matter to me. I’m gonna play in whatever. When it’s time to compete, it’s time to compete. I think we’ll all help ourselves defensively by not playing more reps, by playing better, playing smarter."

Asked if there are currently any packages where he comes off the field, Ryans responded: "No. You trying to get me off the field?"

Ryans is a coach's dream, serving as Davis' extension from the box upstairs to the field. He gets guys lined up, makes the calls and tries to put his teammates in positions where they can be successful. There's no doubt Kelly, Davis and the rest of the organization value those things. When the team signed Malcolm Jenkins, they talked about him being the Ryans of the back end.

It's only June, and things could change in the coming months. Maybe the Eagles will experiment with some dime packages. Maybe one of the backups like Najee Goode or Jason Phillips will mix into the rotation.

But for now, the most likely scenario is Ryans playing the same role in 2014 that he played last year.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Allen Barbre signs a deal to keep him in Philly through 2017.

Two national writers disagree over the Eagles' most concerning position, and another expresses doubt about Nick Foles.

Says Lane Johnson: "I’m trying to be a dominant player. I know I have the ability."

T-Mac spoke with Jason Kelce about the Eagles' culture change.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

Nate Davis of USA Today already has predictions out. He's got the Eagles going 11-5 and winning the NFC East:

Class of weak division. But can Nick Foles reproduce 2013 magic? DeSean Jackson's speed will be missed.

Phil Sheridan of ESPN.com on what Jeremy Maclin's health scare Monday revealed about the Eagles:

The immediate reaction: that another injury to Maclin could be devastating because of his perceived status as the replacement for DeSean Jackson in Kelly's scheme. But in reality, that is not the case and it never was. The Eagles will try to replace Jackson's production with Darren Sproles, with draft picks Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff, with second-year tight end Zach Ertz, with Arrelious Benn and, yes, with Maclin. 

COMING UP

We catch up with one of the Eagles' backup linemen and take a closer look at the running game.

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  • UncleCarm

    Lining up against trashcans…. its good to see we are already preparing for Dallas.

    • G_WallyHunter

      Isn’t it great? They can line up garbage cans and essentially simulate playing against two division opponents

      • Johnny Domino

        Thought those were tomato cans.

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  • Tom W

    Risky and foolish strategy w Ryans … Lbs wear down….especially vets who play every down ….. Number one question for 2014 isn’t foles or maclin or Malcolm smith but whether eagles sports science and Lady Luck can help prevent Ryans, Barwin, peters, Mathis, and Todd from getting injured.

    • Jeff Asay

      Injuries happen, and one season does not a trend make. Can’t fill every need. Can’t take action for the purpose of taking action. ILB is thin, but find me a team where there weren’t / aren’t spots of injury concern. Pretty sure Eagles of Buddy would have felt the same if Seth Joyner, Reggie White, or Byron Evans got hurt. Or if Reid’s Eagles lost Jon Runyan, Tra Thomas, or Hugh Douglas.

      • Tom W

        Naming players on old eagles teams means nothing to my point. I don’t care that they were unable to address ilb in the draft. But it’s a silly plan to go into a season planning on playing a 29 yr old ilb more than any other ilb in the league after a season of doing the same thing and not thinking it may be a good idea to give the guy some rest during a game by playing one of your young ilbs a few reps a game or in coverage. Crossing your fingers isn’t a smart strategy or good planning for the future. Chips defenses at Oregon typically played 20-24 pkayers a game. We aren’t there yet and it may come back to bite us in the ass. And it’s not a suprise …. Even your head coach said that coverage at ilb was a concern after last offseason….. We just didn’t address it.

        • shady25

          So like Chip said, are you taking him off the field just to give him a break? Then who are you putting in for him? The best guys play regardless.

          Get off the field on 3rd down and then you get your “break”. Hopefully better safety play and more experience in this defense will help out with that. Guys get hurt all the time is going to happen. It could be anybody at any given time doesn’t matter if you rotate or not.

          • Richard Colton

            Isn’t that the point? We have zip behind ‘Meco, unless you’re moving one of the outside guys inside. caseymatthews was a top LB sub last year.

            casey

            bleeping

            matthews

            I don’t know about you, but I see the choice between a worn down Ryans and a fresh caseymatthews as a terrible choice. Tom said “risky” – that’s how I’d describe it too.

          • Tom W

            Break, keeping fresh, getting your second team experience …. We do it at dl, wr, rb, te, olb …. Why not ilb???? Goode played well last year and personally I liked acho. One series a game or 8-10 snaps won’t kill anyone or bury our defense. At the least, do it in nickel on occasion where demeco is weakest (although not weak). Lb is much like rb, they burn out and get injured often …. Need to have strong proven backups and/or take measures to limit your studs snaps …. We give McCoy a break all the time … So your chip logic is just wrong …. And that break he gets may improve his play and keep him fresher at end of yr and playoffs ….

          • JofreyRice

            yeah, defense was bad anyway. Who gives? You don’t want a situation like where Dawkins walked away and there was a vacuum because no one else knew how to lead.

          • travis papa

            Actually McCoy chooses when he comes off the field and he had more touches than any rb in the league. We only had 3 olbs and barwin played nearly 100% of plays so no real rotation there. Wr by necessity got some other players on the field but besides djax Cooper and avant our wrs had 8 rec for 108 yds and a td for the yr. 16gms… And 2 of the top 3 are gone

          • Tom W

            Means nothing to me who took McCoy off the field he came off a lot we run a lot of frEaking pkays …. Your wr excuse is beat lots of subs ball blah no one wS talking about production …. I noticed you didn’t address the dlineman at all but thanks bc they come off the field at most. Same w cole …. And wAtch dope Barwin will sub w Marcus smith obviously but thanks …. Subbing makes sense at every position but qb and ol … I’m not asking for Mona Lisa just 10 snaps for Goode

          • travis papa

            Im not arguing friend I was just saying we didn’t sub a lot at those spots really. DL and te we subbed a fair amount Casey didn’t get a lot of snaps til the end of the yr. I hope Smith and Graham get closer to 40-50% of snaps this yr just to have fresh players rushing at all times. The whole production thing is exactly what it’s about though. What’s the point of having your 4th or 5th wr on the field if he can’t give you more production than a tired avant or a mostly fresh ertz.

          • Tom W

            We sub a lot at a lot of postions I can make weak excuses all you want … Seattle and the niners and pats substitute their defense all the time and more so Kelly’s defense at Oregon did all the time … Just dumb to leave demeco out there all the damn season especially after we and everyone else identified out ilb coverage as a weakness in passing downs

          • travis papa

            It all goes to Kelly’s point of not taking your best players off the field just for the sake of subbing for a play or 2 what if that 1 play leads to a catastrophic miscommunication and results in a game losing td even if it takes place in the 3rd quarter and u don’t think it was important.

    • usmcnole

      Atleast we’re not going into the season with a 4th rd rookie like casey matthews at starting mlb. Now that was foolish

    • Amar

      How old was Jeremy Maclin or RG III when they lost a year due to injuries ?
      Injuries happen man, just a higher possibility with the seniors with nagging ones.

  • Johnny Domino

    Imagine there will some ILB depth candidates at the last cutdowns this summer.
    Howie et al have to do their homework.

    • shady25

      Like they did last year with Roc Carmichael and Najee Goode.

      • Johnny Domino

        Like that, only better hopefully.

  • Scott J

    Hopefully Goode or Knott can improve their cover skills to replace Ryans on passing downs. I guess Bill Davis doesn’t have much confidence in them yet. Add these guys to the list of players to watch during training camp.

    • shady25

      Yes. They should be on everyone’s radar. Wonder why Knott is running with the 3rd team? Guess they want to get Phillips some reps because Knott is gone for the first 4 games.

    • Richard Colton

      Knott Goode enough. Jake is suspended for the first few games I think. And at any rate, those guys are career special teamers.

      • shady25

        We don’t know that yet. Only way to find out is for them to play and from what I remember, Knott did okay in the preseason last year and Goode also when he played for Kendricks. Guys need time to develop. Can’t give up on them after one year in a new defense.

      • Johnny Domino

        I see what you did there.

  • dislikedisqus

    The best way to spell Ryans is to shift Barwin inside on some passing plays, then have his spot filled with an edge rusher. Barwin will make a better ILB than either of the 2d team ILBs.

    • anon

      Goode was pretty good last year spelling Kendricks — hopefully hell make a jump this year.

      Problem is Kendricks hasn’t improved enough to take Ryans’ job. Maybe this year he’ll get there.

  • daggolden

    The Eagles need 2 sets of starters on defense. Its no wonder that Ryans played more snaps thean any defensive player in the NFL. tts no wonder that the Eagles defense was as bad as it was. What do you expect when you run a fast break offense? It is Impossible for any defense including your own to keep being trotted out on the field for 100 snaps a game. Theres a reason why his Oregon defenses weren’t any good you keep sending them out on the field every 45 seconds. Chip has to find a balance when he gets the lead or have basically two starting defenses. They have to defend a 10 play drive then a minute later go back on the field no matter if they score fast or go 3 and out in a minute.

    • daggolden

      If the offense is doing good the defense doesn’t get a break, if the offense is doing bad they don’t get a break. They cant win.

      • paul from nc

        They could’ve helped themselves if they would have been better on 3rd down. They were near the bottom of the league in that category.
        I remember way too many 3rd and long, and very long, where they broke down and let a drive continue when they should have been trotting off the field.

    • Jeff Asay

      I don’t believe this was the primary culprit last season. This Defense simply couldn’t get off the field and gave up long drives. Pretty certain an elite D wouldn’t give up first down after first down like this one did. To me, jury remains out on your theory. Because a good D should be able to give the ball to the offense more often early, getting a larger lead earlier, so the O can slow down later in the game to keep the D fresh.

      • daggolden

        What was the reason they couldn’t get off the field? Was it they were tired? Worn out? Or just not good enough. It was stated they gave up 190 drives but not mentioned how many plays were in those drives. Ryans played over 1000 snaps. I mean its just common sense if your offense is averaging 2 minute drives the whole game even if its positive or negative and the rest of the leagues avg is 4-5 minutes your defense is going to suffer no matter how you slice it.

        • daggolden

          I guess if yeou had the 1985Chicago Bears defense or even Seattles defense it would work but if you just have a avg to below avg defense the odds cant be in your favor. I would love to ask Demeco Ryans if he would like the offense to have a 8 min scoring drive or if he prefers to be on the field 3 extra times in the same time span. Now if the Eagles can build that defense up to elite then you got something.

        • JosephR2225

          Logically what you’re saying makes sense, but the facts don’t back it up. The Eagles were last in the NFL in TOP per drive at 2:09 last season, but the NFL average was only 26 seconds higher at 2:35. I don’t know if that extra 26 seconds of game time makes a significant difference in how tired the players get, but I do know the 4th quarter, when they theoretically should have been the most tired, was their best quarter defensively last season in terms of yards per play both rushing and passing.

          • daggolden

            I guess it means there was a lot of scoring and a lot of bad defenses in the NFL last year that gave up quick scoring drives.lol. The Eagles problem was they gave up long, methodical 13 play drives. lol

          • daggolden

            You almost wanted say to the opposing offenses just score already so we can get our offense back on the field. It was excruciating watching 1st and 10, 2nd and 4, 3rd and 2, 1st down. Or 1st and 20, 2nd and 11, 3rd and 15, first down over and over again. lol.

          • southy

            The Eagles’ problem was fairly obvious for anyone that watched them. Play good defense for the first two downs, give up the long 3rd down play, rinse, repeat. Sooooo frustrating.

          • southy

            It’s raining facts up in here.

    • JosephR2225

      The Eagles defense faced 190 drives against last year, per Football Outsiders (excluding any kneel-down drives), just four over the NFL average of 186. The problem wasn’t that the Eagles fast offense was giving the other team’s offense too many drives, it was that the Eagles defense couldn’t get off the field. They were 31st in the NFL with 6.17 plays per drive against.

      • shady25

        Thank you! Get off the field and this is not even a discussion. Look at the Chiefs game. We had them inside their 5 yards line and they drove the ball all the way down the field. Look at the Saints game. Have them 3rd and long Roc Carmichael comes in and Brees goes right at him. Another first down…. Have to get off the field I don’t care of your offense goes 3 and out every time. I really think it was our safeties fault most of the time. Chung is an idiot.

        • NickS1

          Chung and Roc sucked, no doubt about it, but Ryans can’t cover. That’s nice he can knock a guy off his route if he comes across the middle, but that isn’t every play by any stretch of the imagination, let alone every third down. He’s not the player he was. I love Ryans as much as the next guy, but to not be able to recognize that he is a coverage liability is a little too homerish. His athleticism isn’t what it once was. I hope we can find a solution on 3rd and long to get him off the field and get someone on who can cover. Keeps Ryans fresh in the long run, too.

          • shady25

            So would you rather have a LB on the field who is fast but doesn’t have the instincts to diagnose a play or the experience? Everybody would have one if they were available. Young guys like Kuechly, Mosley, etc. aren’t available. So you play your savvy vet who’s been in that 3rd and long situation millions of times. Just because they are faster and more athletic doesn’t mean you’re going to be in the right place on the field or make the tackle. See Kendricks last year. Ryans is not going to make every play on 3rd down, no one is. But I’ll take my chances with the veteran leader of the defense. Just like Chip and Billy Davis are doing…

          • southy

            My bet is they’re going to bring Jenkins down a bit to help with TE coverage and stuff over the middle. Wolff has great speed and vertical for a safety – if Jenkins can have him playing smart on the back end it should free Jenkins up to play some coverage underneath.

            Meco will be asked to do what he does best on 3rd down, patrol the 1st down line over the middle and keep everything in front of him.

          • shady25

            Yup. It’s silly to take one of your best defensive players off the field. Demeco isn’t the problem for getting off the field on 3rd down. Billy Davis had to use what he had and it wasn’t much at the safety position. More versatility with better players this year will help with getting off the field. Demeco isn’t perfect, everyone will screw up from time to time but you can’t take your defensive captain and leader off the field.

          • NickS1

            Taking chances with the veteran leader is a large part of how we ended up 31st in 3rd down success rate and staying on the field longer than we should have been.

      • Jerry Pomroy

        I think the plan is to build a defense consisting of what would equate to two units. From all accounts I’ve read, Chip had 22-25 guys rotate in regularly on defense at Oregon. That supports this theory. Looking at some of the moves made per the defense, that also seems to be the case. Take the secondary. At CB, we’ve got Fletcher & Williams, with Boykin in slot. But we also have Carroll & Watkins. Carroll has the potential to start or be a very good backup. Watkins looks like he’s gonna be a player as well that could play every position in the secondary. Now how about Safety? Well same thing. We’ve got Jenkins (who can also play every spot in secondary) & Wolff. Then you’ve got a combo of Allen/Reynolds or Allen/Maragos, plus your wildcard in Watkins. The secondary units are deep with what we’ll call B-C talents, as opposed to one or two A talents, a B/C and then a bunch of D’s.

        I’m just using the secondary as an example, but you can see by looking there that this looks to be the means to building a formidable, deep unit of quality players, rather than a few stars and a big falloff to the next man up.

      • dnabrice

        Teams constantly converted 3rd and longs against them last year. Jenkins better be the key to reducing those conversions or the D will be bad again. Gives the opposing offense another 3 chances to gain yardage.

      • http://www.corcommunity.com/ theycallmerob

        #facts

    • Warhound

      Stats don’t support that. I saw an article a few years back that looked at how long of a break defenses got while their offense had the ball and it did not impact the success rate of the D. Remember the other teams offense also wears down. What they did see was that not huddling prevented defenders, esp DL, from rotating; this wore them down and had a measurable impact.

  • TNA

    The best of all worlds is if Ryans and the entire defense can get off the field after third down. Hopefully, with improved safety play and communication, the press corners can actually press and funnel everything underneath where the safeties and LBs can prevent first downs.

  • Richard Colton

    Interesting point about CJ Mosely. I wonder if the Eagles would have taken him at #22 if he had fallen. I get the impression CK & Davis don’t value ILB as much as other positions on the Defense.

    • JosephR2225

      This is from Sheil’s article on May 12, just after the draft:

      “We know by now that the Eagles targeted six players at No. 22, and none of them fell. The guess as to who the six were? Alabama LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks, LSU WR Odell Beckham Jr., Virginia Tech CBKyle Fuller and either UCLA OLB Anthony Barr or Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier.

      But the two that Kelly mentioned specifically as guys the Eagles liked were Cooks and Mosley.”
      ——————-
      Of course it’s just guessing, but I think had he been there they would have taken a shot on him.

      • Richard Colton

        Yea, I remember that. I really liked CJ as well. It’s just telling that they haven’t drafted an ILB in two years. Meco and Kendricks were Howie/Reid guys. It’s not like we don’t have a need at the position.

        • knighn

          As others have said on here, “They draft players, not positions.”
          I think we saw some of that in this year’s draft with OL. Howie admitted (post-draft) that he REALLY wanted an OL. But after the run on the position the Eagles didn’t take some lower-rated OL just to take one. They stuck to their value rankings. They probably did the same with ILB.

          • Richard Colton

            I thought that too, before this draft.

          • knighn

            Really? I think there is fair evidence there that they stuck with BVA (Best Value Available) as in: which move/player will add the most value to The Philadelphia Eagles both now and in the future?

            They were also very specific with the players they took: graduates, mostly young, guys that love football, and (of course) guys that demonstrate versatility.

    • shady25

      I think they had Mosley and Shazier rated pretty high but your not moving up to get those guys when you don’t have any firepower to do it. I think they are being honest when they tell us that everyone they had rated high was gone and they took the best player at a position of need.

  • Scott J

    Did you ever notice the Eagles logo faces backwards and all the others teams logo faces forward, or straight ahead? We’re the only team with a logo facing to the left.

    • Brandon Boykin, LOL

      Google/Wiki Gregg Easterbrook and the Nesharim.

      • knighn

        Gregg Easterbrook sucks, but this is a good point.

        • Brandon Boykin, LOL

          I used to love Gregg Easterbrook until he started trashing EVERYTHING the Iggs did.

          But you’re right. He sucks.

          • http://www.corcommunity.com/ theycallmerob

            Agree wholeheartedly

    • Chris

      Interesting

  • shady25

    You can’t take this guy off the field. He is too valuable. I hope Kendricks and Jake Knott are following him around like a lost puppy and learning everything they can. Just like Wolff is doing with Jenkins. Guys like that are too important and valuable to take off the field. Did Urlacher ever come off the field? Ray Lewis? London Fletcher? Daryl Smith? Poslunzky? These guys are like quarterbacks, they are hard to find and fortunately for us we have one. An MLB who can diagnose a play, make the right adjustment and make the tackle! I hope he plays his contract out and never comes off the field. Because if he does, then that’s the day we will be in trouble. He is more than capable of playing 3 downs. Any receiver who crosses in front of him within five yards, he will knock your block off and it’s legal. So please stop with all this taking Ryans off the field crap. If he or Boykin are not on the field on a key 3rd down situation, then we are screwed.

    • Joe from Easton

      Amen. You want Ryan to play less snaps? Improve your defense and get off of the field on 3rd down.

      Enter Jenkins, more corner competition, improved D-Line rotation, and scheme familiarity. We will have a better defense that gets off of the field more (hopefully) which is how you keep tread on the tires of guys like Ryans.

      • Tom W

        Stop crying. Were u crying about mccoys snaps. No. Of course u weren’t. So relax.

  • JofreyRice

    Kelly doesn’t seem a guy that does things without reason. Maybe he’s got some data about older guys that flies in the face of the conventional wisdom. Or maybe he’s got a blind spot regarding age-related decline because he’s never had to deal with it. We’re going to see this season, because this team is veteran in a lot of key spots.

    • paul from nc

      That point about age decline was genius. It’s so obvious, yet I never thought about it. I guess that’s one of the adjustments a college coach must make.

      • JofreyRice

        Like I said, he’s a brilliant guy, so I doubt it’s totally a blind spot for him…yet…have you ever seen the charts on the precipitous dropoff in production of running backs after a certain age? I mean, they’re great, and then they’re really, really not great. Maybe that’s something you can only appreciate from afar.

        My point in all this is that although DeMeco needs replacing sooner than later, maybe Kelly’s got some kind of advanced metric that disproves that. I don’t know. With so short a track record for Kelly, we have a lot to learn in regards to how the season pans out.

    • Tom W

      Makes no sense

      • JofreyRice

        What part are you confused about?