By David F. Cohen
Eagles fans, long used to seeing linebacker DeMeco Ryans terrorizing running backs and quarterbacks and calling the defensive signals, better be ready for Casey Matthews.
Matthews, who looked lost as a rookie starter in the middle of a 4-3 scheme and became a backup after that, in the past few weeks has shown he can make plays.
Mychal Kendricks is going to have to stay healthy and play the way he did Sunday against Houston. Kendricks, who missed four games earlier this season with a calf injury, played very well in Sunday’s win over the Texans. That has to continue the rest of the season.
Matthews and Emmanuel Acho are going have to combine to give the Eagles at least a serviceable inside linebacker next to Kendricks.
Rookie first-round draft choice Marcus Smith has been a non-event this season, so the Eagles are going to have sign another inside linebacker as a backup to fill Ryans’ spot on the 53-man roster.
Ryans, the Eagles defensive leader on and off the field, is lost for the season with a torn Achilles tendon. He will likely be replaced on injured reserve today or tomorrow and a player will be added to take his place.
Acho is physical enough to get the job done, but lacks experience in the system.
Smith, the team’s rookie first-round pick, may as well enjoy his red-shirt season in the NFL.
As to who will fill Ryans’ roster spot, here are some possibilities that Mark Eckel of the Trenton Times has suggested:
Brandon Hepburn: This is the easy move. Hepburn, 6-2, 235, is on the Eagles practice squad after he was cut by Detroit on final cuts. He was originally a seventh-round pick of the Lions in 2013 out of Florida A&M. He’s considered an intelligent player who if nothing else would help on special teams.
A. J. Edds: Released by the Jets last week, the 6-4, 256-pound Edds was originally a fourth-rounbd pick by Miami out of Iowa in 2010. He’s bounced around with the Dolphins, Patriots, Colts and Jets. His strength was as a nickel linebacker in a 3-4 system.
Larry Grant: Grant, 6-1, 251, has experience. Originally a seventh-round pick by San Francisco in 2008 out of Ohio State, he started in place of injured Patrick Willis for the 49ers for three games. He’s also played for the Rams, and the Browns, who released him in training camp this summer.
D.J. Smith: Smith is undersized at 5-11, 239, but has played in a 3-4 with Green Bay after being a sixth-round pick in 2011. He was cut by the Packers in 2013, and ended up with Carolina last year before being released in camp this past summer.
Jamos Mouton: A second-round pick by San Diego out of Michigan in 2011, Mouton, 6-2, 240, has had a hard time staying healthy. Two knee injuries have sidetracked his career and led to his release by the Chargers this summer.