Ryans gives Eagles presence in the middle

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BETHLEHEM, Pa. (AP) - When teammates talk about DeMeco Ryans, his playmaking ability is only a small part of the discussion.

They talk about his leadership, his commanding presence in the huddle, his ability to teach his teammates as if he were a coach.

And, yes, they talk about what a terrific middle linebacker he is, too.

His presence has been felt,'' said linebacker Jamar Chaney, who lost his starting middle linebacker spot to Ryans.You can tell he was a leader with the Texans and when he was in college, in Alabama. With a guy like that, who has all that experience and accolades ... you listen to him a little more than you listen to another guy.''

After years of trying to patch together a linebacking corps with late-round draft picks, veteran castoffs and ill-advised free agent signings, the Eagles this offseason acquired a proven player in Ryans, twice a Pro Bowl pick with the Texans.

Although linebacker Ike Reese was named a special teams Pro Bowl pick in 2004, the Eagles have had just one player go to the Pro Bowl as a linebacker in the last 20 years - Jeremiah Trotter, a four-time Pro Bowl pick between 1999 and 2004.

Ryans is here to deliver exactly what Trotter brought. Toughness, playmaking and credibility at a position where the Eagles have had very little for years.

He's a leader,'' defensive coordinator Juan Castillo said.He's done it. They can look to him and the way he carries himself on the field, the way he carries himself off the field. It's unbelievable.''

Take away the 28-year-old Ryans, and the Eagles linebackers average just 23 years old. So Ryans has to serve a dual role. Linebacker and mentor. Player and coach.

First and foremost, I have to make sure I'm right in what I'm doing, that takes precedence,'' Ryan said.But after that, I'm always giving the guys little extra tips on what can help them out in certain coverages or certain situations and help them become better players.

``When I was the youngest player, when I was with the Texans, the older guys would always give me little tidbits, so it's something that I want to pass on to these guys, and they can do it when I'm done playing and they're the older guys.''

Safe to say Ryans is getting through.

He's very demanding, I'll tell you that,'' weakside linebacker Brian Rolle said.He's not afraid to speak his mind. If he wants something one way, it's going to be that way.

``He said something to me and (rookie Mychal) Kendricks about a certain way to play something, and the coaches didn't have anything to say about it, because you have a guy, a Pro Bowl guy, if he says something, he knows. He's been through it and we're going to do it just like that.''

Ryans came to the Eagles in March in a trade with the Texans, where he spent his first six seasons and made the Pro Bowl in 2007 and 2009.

Since cutting ties with Trotter after the 2006 season, the Eagles have used nine different middle linebackers: Omar Gaither, Stewart Bradley, Will Witherspoon, Chris Gocong, Joe Mays, Akeem Jordan, Casey Matthews, Chaney and even Trotter again.

The plan is for Ryans to end years of disarray at one of the most important positions on the field.

Offenses in today's football throw you a million different looks and motions, formations and personnel groups and so you've got to have somebody in there that can pick things up and pick it up quick,'' coach Andy Reid said.He's able to do that.''

Ryans has started more games (87) than all the other Eagles linebackers combined (49), and he gets a kick out of being the senior member of the group.

Those guys, it seems like they're my little brothers,'' he said.In my family, I'm the youngest of four, so it's good to play that older brother type of role and help these young guys out.''

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