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Ryans comes to Philly a born leader

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By Eric Edholm

With Eagles fans, there is natural-born doubt. Why was the price so low for MLB DeMeco Ryans, acquired from the Texans for a swap of third-round picks and a throw-in fourth-rounder? Is Ryans fully healed from his ruptured left Achilles tendon in 2010? Why would the Texans, a team on the rise, give up a glue player such as this so easily?

Those are natural worries. They are all legitimate questions.

But if Ryans is half the player the Eagles think he is, they have scored a huge upgrade at a need position. Linebacker was an unmitigated disaster last season, from rookies being thrust into the lineup to no natural leadership to square pegs in round holes.

Ryans can slightly understand that last element. After all, he was taken out of his more natural 4-3 MLB spot when the Texans switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense under coordinator Wade Phillips, where Ryans' role changed slightly and he came off the field in the team's nickel and dime packages.

PFW caught up with Phillips last week at the Ed Block Courage Awards, well before the trade was announced, and Phillips praised Ryans specifically for his work in the Texans' huge turnaround on defense. Coincidentally, Ryans also was there, honored for his comeback from the Achilles injury, and he told PFW he was excited to get back to work — with the Texans, the team with whom he had become ingrained, as the franchise's all-time tackles leader.

Now he's in Philly, having been caught off guard a bit by the trade, but ready to take on the same role he did in Houston: leader and thumper. Ryans is known for his tackling ability near the line of scrimmage with great instincts and reading ability based on opponents' tendencies, formations and game situations.

"You're talking about a really physical, instinctive linebacker. He's in control," Eagles GM Howie Roseman said at Ryans' introductory press conference. "We had the opportunity to watch him in a 4-3 defense a few years back and saw him play against the NFC East.

"We felt very confident and comfortable making this trade."

Roseman also had to know that he was gaining a leader of notable stature, and filling that void in the middle of a talented but off-kilter defense could be the biggest gap Ryans plugs up this coming season.

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