Eagles Wake-Up Call: Replacing DeMeco


NFL: Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles

Billy Davis was singing the praises of DeMeco Ryans last week like he has so many times since taking over as defensive coordinator.

One of the big story lines heading into Sunday’s game was Ryans’ return to Houston to play his former team. Davis was asked to speak to what the veteran linebacker brings both behind the scenes and on the field.

“DeMeco is one of the finest men I’ve been around.  He’s a relentless worker; you can’t outwork him.  He’s a great leader.  He’s a very calm leader,” Davis said. “During the game everybody gets amped up and it takes all that you have, every ounce of what you have, to play every snap.  Tempers get going and emotions get going, and that’s the way you have to play the game.  DeMeco is a calming influence.  He plays at that level, he plays with that intensity, but the way he talks to his teammates, the way he coaches them out there, is a very calming effect on the defense.

“He makes good, quick decisions that set our defense up.  We have a lot of checks and he gets us in and out of calls based on formation or the quarterback audibling.  Without DeMeco, I don’t know if we could do as much as we do.”

At the time, those quotes were about what the Eagles’ defense was fortunate to have. Now they highlight what it has lost.

The transition from Nick Foles to Mark Sanchez will dominate the headlines, but there is a very important changing of the guard happening on defense as well. Part of the intrigue/concern is that, unlike the quarterback situation, it’s unclear exactly who Ryans is handing the baton off to. Mychal Kendricks is the most obvious candidate. He is the future of the position and, as one of the most gifted players on the defense, will be asked to shoulder a good bit of the load. Kendricks is also just 24 and not quite seasoned yet. It is perhaps telling that Davis said the responsibility of making the calls and getting guys lined up will fall to either Casey Matthews or Emmanuel Acho, while Kendricks will handle those responsibilities when the team is in dime. That’s three different linebackers potentially calling the shots during the course of the game.

Filling the leadership void will be a group effort as well.

“Yes, not only me but Connor Barwin, Cedric Thornton and the other guys that are leaders in their positions,” said Malcolm Jenkins. “Even Mychal Kendricks will have to take more of a leadership role making sure we are on the same page because you miss the mainstay in the middle.”

“He has taught me how to be a leader,” said Kendricks of Ryans. “He has played this game a lot longer than me and I have been picking his brain ever since I got here and will continue to keep learning from him.”

Ryans will remain with the team and continue to sit in on meetings and the like. Chip Kelly was asked if there is a way he can be of assistance from the sideline.

“Maybe put his brain in one of our other linebackers,” he joked.

Short of that medical miracle, Davis will have to find a way to make it work without not only the brains but the heart of the operation.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Todd Herremans is heading to the IR. What that means for the offensive line.

Answering your questions about Foles, Sanchez and more in the latest Twitter Mailbag.

“He’s on a one-year contract, but I won’t be surprised if he stays in Philadelphia.” National media offer their thoughts on Sanchez.  

Sheil gives us three leftovers from Kelly’s press conference.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Mike Sielski writes about the end of the Sanchez era in New York, and why he is better set up to succeed here:

This situation isn’t comparable to the mess that the Jets had become (and still are) and to the peculiar public fascination that accompanies being the latest Next Joe Namath. If you thought we psychoanalyzed Donovan McNabb over his decade here, you’re only beginning to have an idea of how people pored over Sanchez’s every throw, every word, every move off the field. (And remember: McNabb never attended the Tony Awards, and he never posed for the cover of GQ.)

Sanchez basically spent five years on a black couch in the nation’s biggest media market. Everyone, from fans to former teammates, turned into an amateur Freud or Jung, trying to account for Sanchez’s regression from a quarterback who helped the Jets reach back-to-back AFC championship games to one who committed an NFL-high 52 turnovers over the 2011 and 2012 seasons and lost 12 of the final 18 games he started.

Mark Eckel says that the Eagles are no longer very high on Foles.

According to people with knowledge of the Eagles’ plans, Foles’ long-term future was in doubt even before the injury.

Foles’ play during the first half of this 2014 season in stark contrast to his Pro Bowl season of 2013 has “soured” some in the organization, including general manager Howie Roseman, according to sources.

In 10 starts in 2013 Foles threw 27 touchdown passes to just two interceptions, completed 64 percent of his passes and had a league-high quarterback rating of 119.2. This season, in eight starts Foles has thrown 13 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions and has a quarterback rating of 81.9.

“I think Howie is looking at quarterbacks,” a league source told NJ.com. “He’s kind of soured on Foles, and I don’t think he’s alone. The organization isn’t sold that he’s the guy going forward.”

COMING UP

Eagles get back to work. We’ll speak to the coordinators before the team’s 12:30 practice.