The Eagles defense led the way today, but we can’t ignore the fact that they were playing against a rookie quarterback, Brandon Weeden in the first game of his career. Still it was an impressive effort for a defense that was getting little help from their offense today.
I remember when I got the news that the Birds had traded for former Pro Bowl middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans. I thought they had finally found them a middle linebacker to replace Jeremiah Trotter, then after camp started, I started to lose some of my enthusiasm about the acquisition.
I’ve told you numerous times that Ryans didn’t show much during the preseason games. I did see him make a few plays in one of the preseason games, so I wasn’t willing or ready to call him a disappointment, just yet.
Still the main reason I didn’t make a judgment on him before the season started was my memories of great NFL players I had played with and against, who I had saw sleepwalk through the training camp and preseason, then dominate during the regular season.
Ryans showed us something different today compared to what we have been getting at camp and in the preseason games. The former Houston Texan and the Eagles defensive front held Browns rookie running back Trent Richardson to 39 yards on 19 carries. The middle linebacker had five tackles and two of those were on third downs to get the Eagles defense off the field.
You could see how he was anticipating plays. Ryans seemed to know when the Browns were going to run the football. He was quick and aggressive when Cleveland handed the ball to Richardson.
I hadn’t seen him run through the backside of a running play and catch the ball carrier from behind. He did it today a number of times. Richardson didn’t have a chance when Ryans pounced on him a split-second after he got the handoff in the backfield.
Number 59 showed the explosiveness I was waiting to see. You’ve got to be able to spring out of your stance at the snap of the ball and run down a ball carrier or in an instant change directions from going one way to going another in pursuit of a receiver.
Today Ryans showed us he can still do that. He also made me think of former Eagles middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, when I saw him blast a couple of the offensive guards when they tried to come out and block him. He attacked them the way you’re supposed to if you don’t want to get blocked.