What DeMeco Ryans did on a third-and-2 in the second quarter of Sunday's win over Baltimore didn't show up on the stat sheet. But it defined how Ryans is transforming the attitude of this defense.
Quarterback Joe Flacco took the snap out of the shotgun. The Ravens were lined up in a bunch formation. Wide receiver Tandon Doss ran a shallow cross in front of Ryans. Since they were within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, Ryans shoved Doss. Not one. Not twice, but three times as Flacco's pass to Ray Rice went for a loss of 5 yards.
"Our mindset is all about being physical. It's all about being a physical defense and leading this team," Ryans said. "When you talk about the Eagles, we want you to talk about our defense and how relentless we are."
Ryans arrived in Philadelphia with high expectations after the Eagles acquired the Pro Bowl middle linebacker from the Houston Texans in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick back in March. The leading tackler in Texans franchise history was miscast in their 3-4 scheme, but a perfect fit for Juan Castillo's defense in Philadelphia. Known as a team captain in Houston, Ryans immediately had the respect of his teammates in the Eagles locker room.
"It's just me being myself. It's since the same things I've played the game in high school," Ryans said. "Nothing's changed for me. There's no magic tricks."
Not only has Ryans delivered off the field, providing the leadership that the young linebacking corps was in search, but on the field as well. Practicing what he preaches, Ryans has been relentless. Against Cleveland, Ryans was found shutting the door against running back Trent Richardson time after time again as he led the team with nine total tackles which included three tackles for loss.
Before last Sunday's game against Baltimore, honorary captain Jeremiah Trotter was at midfield for the coin toss. Ryans was also present as one of the team captains for the game. Trotter, a four-time Pro Bowl selection as an Eagle at middle linebacker, told Ryans that he couldn't wait to see him in action.
Ryans did not disappoint. Ryans had a sack and an interception for the second time in his career and finished with nine total tackles. For the season, Ryans leads the Eagles with 18 tackles and five tackles for loss. No other Eagle has more than one tackle for loss. The Eagles are ranked fourth in the league in yards allowed.
But Ryans, who played in the playoffs for the first time in six NFL seasons in 2011, is far from satisfied.
"We still feel like there are some things we can clean up and be even better at. We always stay hungry. That's what I believe. You always have to stay hungry, never get complacent with where you are," Ryans said. "We're just two games into the season. There's still a lot of things to build on."
While there might be things to improve, Ryans is already helping change the perception of this Eagles defense.
Make sure to follow us on Twitter @EaglesInsider