Leadership is what the Eagles' defense was lacking. In the locker room, on the field and in the meeting rooms.
Ever since Brian Dawkins left the nest, there has been a legitimate void. There was no real voice to inspire and rally the troops when things went sour. At first, the Eagles refused to address the issue. But the team finally bit the bullet and acknowledged their lack of leadership this offseason by trading for DeMeco Ryans.
"It's incredible," said defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. "Everyone already respects him and looks at him as a leader."
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The veteran was penciled in as the starting middle linebacker even before he landed in Philadelphia. His new teammates can already sense it.
"He's the leader that we didn't have," second-year linebacker Casey Matthews said. "He's been through it all. He's overcome injuries. He's a good leader. He knows how to motivate people."
Ryans is the new kid on the block, but his track record speaks for itself: six NFL seasons and two Pro Bowls. Many of his former teammates in Houston expressed shock when Ryans was sent packing. For Ryans, he's over it. He's got a fresh start here and he's ready for the challenge.
"It doesn't take long," said Ryans of becoming a leader. "It just takes time to learn the guys, the locker room, and get comfortable around here. Being here over the last month and working out with the guys, I'm starting to get more and more comfortable."
Castillo said Ryans isn't that vocal on the field. He's not the type to get in a guy's face. When pressed about what makes Ryans a good leader, Castillo smiles and says that he's got "it."
"He doesn't have to jump anybody or say anything, people just follow him," Castillo said. "He's got charisma. He's smart. He's been here every day working and I think guys respect that and see that."