The Eagles have a lot on their to-do list heading into the 2021 offseason.
One of the more prominent question marks is who will be the eventual replacement for defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who is set to take a year off from football in 2021.
Some believe the organization will favor one of their in-house candidates. Defensive line/run game coordinator Matt Burke and defensive backs coach Marquand Manuel would be the front runners if the Eagles decide to go that route. Burke is a long-time Schwartz disciple, and both him and Manuel have defensive coordinator experience.
But, there’s one familiar name that’s a very intriguing option if the team wants to hire from outside the organization. Former Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans has been getting a lot of buzz as a potential defensive coordinator candidate around the league, and for good reason.
He’s currently the inside linebackers coach for the San Francisco 49ers and had developed his unit into one of the best in the league. In a year where a handful of the Niners key defensive lineman went down with injury, Ryans’ linebackers were able to pick up the slack, as they were the standout position group on San Fran’s defense.
Ryans has been a great developer of talent during his time with the Niners. Fred Warner has solidified himself as one of the best young linebacker in the league, earning his first Pro Bowl selection this year. Dre Greenlaw, a fifth round selection, has developed into one of the best tackling linebackers in football.
The Eagles don’t value the linebacker position very much, but who’s to say Ryans couldn’t develop Alex Singleton, Davion Taylor, or Shaun Bradley into formidable starters? In his development of Warner and Greenlaw, both late round picks in the draft, he’s proven he doesn’t need top-end prospects in order to succeed.
Ryans already has a relationship with both Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman, as he played under them during his time with the Eagles.
The defensive system the Niners run isn’t too far off from what the Eagles have been doing under Schwartz, either. San Fran will send extra pressure at a higher rate than Schwartz did, but the essence of both defensive schemes are the same. Both run a 4-3 base front, both systems put a lot of value into the defensive line, they both like to run the wide-9 techniques with their lineman, and they both mix in man-to-man and zone coverage on the backend.
The only issue here is that San Fran may look to hire a new defensive coordinator if their current one, Robert Saleh, moves on to be a head coach this offseason. Many of the Niners’ local reporters have speculated that Ryans would be the top internal candidate to replace Saleh if he leaves in 2021.
Regardless, the Eagles should consider Ryans as a potential candidate to replace Schwartz. He won’t completely change the defensive scheme already in place, but he’ll add enough wrinkles to it to keep it fresh in 2021.
Unless the organization decides to hire from within, Ryans should be at the top of their candidates list.