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Ryans The Rock In Middle Of Defense

The Eagles have had their share of struggles on defense this season.

The pass rush has accounted for just 18 sacks last season, good for a tie for 28th in the league just one season after being tied for the league lead.

The secondary has allowed 20 touchdown passes, which is tied for the seventh-most in the NFL.

Despite the issues, there has been a rock in the middle of the defense this season - middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans.

With five games still to play in 2012, Ryans already has a team-leading 112 tackles. It's the fifth time in his career that he has eclipsed the 100-tackle plateau, but the first since he ruptured his Achilles in the 2010 season. In five of the last seven games, Ryans has registered double-digit tackles. He also has 14 tackles for loss, which is the most by an Eagle since the team began tracking the stat in 1999.

"His biggest strength is his mental capacity," defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said on Thursday. "He can handle a lot and he understands adversity because he's been through a lot coming back from an injury and all."

Acquired from the Houston Texans back in March, Ryans brought instant leadership and credibility to the linebacking corps. A former second-round pick in 2006 and the all-time tackles leader in Texans' franchise history, Ryans understands how to deal with tough seasons. The Texans enjoyed their first winning season in 2009 only to sink back to 6-10 the following season. Finally, Houston broke through for its first playoff appearance and win last year. Here in Philadelphia, Ryans doesn't think the Eagles are in need of a rebuilding process.

"I think we have the pieces in place," Ryans said. "When it comes to Sunday, we have to make the plays we're supposed to make and play smart."

The Eagles are 3-8 and head coach Andy Reid said that the focus down the stretch will be giving the young players a chance to play. Ryans was asked how that impacted him and he joked that he is "a young guy. He was talking about playing me more." But the 28-year-old Ryans is happy that players like defensive ends Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry will get more of an opportunity to shine.

"I think it's good to see the younger guys, see what they can do," said Ryans, who was once the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year. "Of course these guys have shown some type of promise, that's why they're here. For those guys, I'm happy for them that they actually get an opportunity to show to the world what they can do in the league."

Whether the Eagles line up the veterans or young players, Ryans' focus will remain the same. He wants to help the Eagles snap their losing streak and he would love to do it in the same state where he spent the first six years of his career.

"We want to win. That's it," Ryans said. "That's the only thing that's driving the attitude (and) the morale. That's the only thing. We need a win.

"Every time I line up, it's to beat the man across from me. No matter the situation, where we're at in the division or whatever, our mindset is to win every play that I'm out on the field."

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