Ryans' role as a leader

The Eagles will look for DeMeco Ryans to be a three-down linebacker. (Clem Murray / Staff Photographer)

About 30 minutes into Tuesday's practice, Bobby April gathered the troops to run through special teams.

Those players who were not involved waited on the sidelines. But back in one end zone was DeMeco Ryans, talking things through with Juan Castillo.

My guess is you'll see a lot written about Ryans this summer - both locally and nationally. He's expected to solidify a linebacking corps that has been unable to get it right over the years. Some of the faces have changed, but for the most part, the results have stayed the same.

Ryans will also be expected to be a leader. He'll make calls, advise some of his younger teammates like rookie Mychal Kendricks and communicate with Castillo about what's working, and more importantly, what's not working.

To really fill that leadership void, Ryans needs to stay on the field for all three downs. At the OTA sessions I've attended, he's been one of the first-team nickel linebackers, alongside Kendricks. And I'm sure Andy Reid and Castillo prefer that he stays there. But he'll have to prove he can cover. If Ryans can't do that, and is replaced in sub packages, it'll be a whole lot tougher to fill that leadership role.

Here are some other observations from today:

* Not only did the Eagles add depth along their defensive line this offseason, but they got considerably younger. If all goes according to plan, Brandon Graham (24), Fletcher Cox (21) and Vinny Curry (23) will anchor the defensive line for years to come. They all need to prove themselves, but if they meet expectations, they'll be in place to take over for veterans like Jason Babin (32), Cullen Jenkins (31), Mike Patterson (28) and Trent Cole (29), whenever those guys start to decline.

* One player who is tough to figure out is Clay Harbor. Will the Eagles' No. 2 tight end be more involved in the passing game in 2012? Or could be be fighting for a roster spot at Lehigh? Right now, the most likely scenario is probably for him to fill the same role as last season. But Harbor is a player to watch up at Lehigh.

* With DeSean Jackson not at OTAs this week, Riley Cooper is getting more reps with the first team. I looked up Cooper's numbers in the three games last year where he played more than 50 percent of the team's offensive snaps and was surprised to see that they were pretty good. Cooper averaged 80 receiving yards per game against the Giants, Patriots and Seahawks. I'll have to take a closer look at my notes to see if those were garbage yards or if Cooper really played well when given the chance.

* Jonathan Tamari over at Birds' Eye View had an interesting post on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie today. Teammates are raving about how he's looked at OTAs. But I'm completely on board with Jon's point about how these "passing camps" are perfectly suited for Rodgers-Cromartie's skills.

While he certainly played better on the outside last season, the enduring images, for me at least, are of Rodgers-Cromartie missing tackles and being careless. Remember, even though he was only 25 and had made a Pro Bowl, the Cardinals were willing to include Rodgers-Cromartie in the Kevin Kolb deal. It'll now be up to new secondary coach Todd Bowles to get the most out of the speedy cornerback, who is entering the final year of his contract.

* In case you missed it from earlier, here's What they're saying about the Eagles.

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