When the Eagles acquired DeMeco Ryans from the Houston Texans back in March, the middle linebacker came to Philadelphia with a sterling resume.
Ryans was a two-time Pro Bowl and one-time All-Pro selection in Houston. He was that franchise's all-time leader in tackles. Not only was he productive, but Ryans was respected as a team captain and the recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award last season.
However, after an Achilles injury ended his streak of 70 consecutive starts as well as his 2010 season, it remained to be seen whether Ryans could once again be an elite linebacker. In 2011, Ryans played in all 16 regular season and two postseason contests, but his talents were marginalized as the Texans transitioned from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
"When (the trade) happened, I felt like this was the time for me, coming off an injury and not playing as much in Houston the last year I was there," Ryans said. "I felt like this would be the start or the rejuvenation, getting the chance to start over again which most guys don't get in this league. I'm blessed to have that happen for me at this point in my career."
The 28-year-old Ryans has provided the playmaking ability from the middle linebacker position that the Eagles have craved since Jeremiah Trotter's second stint in Philadelphia. Ryans leads the Eagles with 74 tackles. He has had at least 10 tackles in each of the past three games. Ryans also has 10 tackles for loss in seven games, which is more than anyone on the Eagles had in 2011. In fact, no Eagle has had more tackles for loss in a season since Trotter had 13 in 2005.
"Being in this type of scheme before, I just picked up on things very quickly. The biggest thing for me was just coming together with the guys, creating that family atmosphere, creating that camaraderie," Ryans said. "That was the biggest thing for me and everything jelled together perfectly and the guys accepted me with open arms. It's been a perfect fit for me."
Not only has Ryans brought great play on the field, he has been a source of leadership for a young linebacking corps and a defense that has undergone a lot of change in the past two seasons. When the Eagles held a players-only meeting last week, Ryans was one of the veterans who spoke in front of the team.
Ryans' efforts are not just being recognized in Philadelphia. The 6-1, 247-pound Ryans has been named to multiple midseason All-Pro teams.
"To know you're still getting honors and accolades, just to know where I was, not playing with the injury and everything and battling back from that, it's been a long road," Ryans said. "I'm just happy to be playing and playing well on a good team. Credit that to the team and the coaches here for trusting in me to allow me to go out and play like I play."
In Houston, Ryans learned how to be a winner. He was a second-round pick in 2006 and grew with the organization as it earned its first playoff berth and postseason win last season. Here in Philadelphia, the Eagles are looking to get back to the postseason. They are 3-4 with a critical game Monday night in New Orleans.
"I think here everybody understands how to get that done," Ryans said. "I definitely understand what it takes to get it done and I see we have those qualities and characteristics on this team."
Make sure to follow us on Twitter @EaglesInsider