When you've spent the past several months being described as a game-changer for the Eagles' defense, it goes without saying that there will be pressure. Linebacker DeMeco Ryans is learning that firsthand.
Many Eagles fans were beyond excited when the Eagles traded for the All-Pro in March. Ryans had a solid Training Camp and preseason, but didn't make the kind of splashy plays some felt he would bring immediately. Ryans understands the scrutiny but was quick to point out that, in six months, no one will care about his preseason performance. What matters is the regular season.
"Everything counts now," Ryans said. "The time is now. When the season is over, I never remembered anybody going back and talking about the preseason. You never hear anything else about it. It's just flavor of the month; that's what it was at the time. Football is back; this is what people have to talk about, but the season is what people remember."
The scrutiny is founded in expectation. Because of his pedigree, fans are hoping Ryans can solidify the middle of the defense and play at the same level he did in Houston. And despite the lofty expectations placed on him by Eagles fans, the pressure Ryans puts on himself is even greater.
"My job is my credibility to my teammates… that's the only thing that matters," Ryans said. "I understand those expectations, but the expectations for myself; that weighs more on me than anything else."
As a reminder of just how high the stakes are this season, head coach Andy Reid made shirts for his team. On them is a simple message – "It's time."
"It's a constant reminder," Ryans said. "Every day you step in here, you see someone wearing the shirt or you see the shirt in your locker, you know it's time. It's time now to get it done. No excuses. It's time to get it done."
The first order of business is the Cleveland Browns. The regular season is here, which means the tempo of the game will only quicken. But Ryans said the team is prepared and focused.
"Everything's happening a lot faster now, and there's definitely a sense of urgency to get things done and to get things done fast and start off on a good note," Ryans said Monday. "Things are picked up mentally; (the team is) locked into what we're doing."
In a way, Sunday brings Ryan's career full circle. Ryans' first game was against the Eagles. His first career tackle was against Brian Westbrook.
"It was a really good game, I always remember that first one," he said. "It was fun. I think it was my first and only time playing against the Eagles."
Ryans' job Sunday will be to welcome Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden and running back Trent Richardson to the league. While they are both highly touted, Ryans knows the best approach is to use experience to beat them.
"When you face a young quarterback, a young running back, you want to give them different looks; confuse them," Ryans said. "I want to go out and dominate against young guys because it's going to be their first game.
"Guys should be a little bit nervous about their first game and we want to make it even harder on them."
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