Eagles Wake-Up Call: Inside Linebacking

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Before the play even starts, DeMeco Ryans processes a lot of information. The ball—and even his opponents—don’t have to move for Ryans’ mind to be in motion.

That’s why Eagles Defensive Coordinator Bill Davis calls the inside linebacker “the quarterback” of the defense. Like a quarterback, he diagnoses the opposition and reacts before the snap.

“If the team is huddling up, I look to see what personnel is in,” Ryans said. “Once they come out, I assess the formation and where tight ends, backs and receivers are. I check the personnel and then make my calls. I diagnose and eliminate plays of what they can’t run. If we’re deep in the game, I probably picked up tendencies on what they are doing.”

When Ryans assesses the offense’s formation and personnel, he considers it all interrelated. He sees them not as disparate pieces, but as a collection of parts.

“When they have two backs and a tight end, I’m thinking run,” Ryans said. “When they have three wide receivers and one tight end, I’m thinking pass. And it all depends on the personnel and if the tight ends are pass receiving guys or big blocking tight ends.”

When the play actually starts, Ryans doesn’t follow the ball or even the quarterback. Instead, he focuses on the offensive linemen. As the play progresses, he’s able to see the running back through the linemen.

“They tell me if it’s going to be a run or pass,” Ryans said. “If it’s run, they’re going to be heavy and blocking really hard. If it’s pass, they’re going to set back and be light on their feet.”

On run plays, Ryans’ reads depend on a number of possibilities. One of the biggest factors, though, comes back to the offense’s formation and personnel.

“If the fullback is in the game, most of the time the ball is going to follow him,” Ryans said. “Instead of looking at the running back, I look at the fullback so I get a quicker read of where the ball is going.”

On passing plays, it’s often tougher to figure out where the ball—or even the receivers—will go. However, sometimes you can predict the type of routes the receivers will run depending on their alignment.

“If they’re tight, they’re running crossing routes,” Ryans said. “If they’re spaced out, they’re running individual routes where they’re reading the defender.”

Because offenses have different tendencies, film study is the go-to resource for putting all of this information in context. It’s also why Ryans thinks the most important element of the game happens before a single snap.

“A lot goes into the preparation the week before the game,” he said. “That’s paramount. You have to study the guys. That’s really the key to how you’re successful in the NFL.”


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Projecting the Eagles’ 53-man roster with less than three weeks until the regular season begins.


Jeff McLane gives his take on which wide receivers and tight ends will make the 53-man roster.

Chip Kelly let a very good receiver in Jeremy Maclin walk, but this group is deeper than last year’s. Jordan Matthews will be pressed to match the No. 1 receiver numbers Maclin (85 catches for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns) and DeSean Jackson (82-1,332-9) put up in 2014 and 2013, but that’s kind of the point. Kelly wants a constant rotation of receivers shuffling in and out of the offense and receivers who aren’t overly concerned with how many targets they get.

Zach Berman says one of DeMarco Murray‘s biggest adjustments has been getting acclimated to running from the shotgun.

DeMarco Murray’s biggest schematic adjustment in coming from Dallas to Philadelphia is running out of the shotgun formation instead of getting the ball from a quarterback is who under center. It’s similar to how he played at Oklahoma, though, when he last took handoffs from Sam Bradford.

“We didn’t do much of it in Dallas, but I’ve done it in the past,” Murray said. “Hopefully we’ll get more downhill runs and get in the home position, but I think just the way we run and the plays, it’s hard for teams to set on one guy, set on one formation. We have a lot of things.”


We’ll speak to Chip Kelly at 11:05, and practice starts at 11:20. But most importantly, today is the Return of the (T-) Mac.