DeMeco Ryans met with national and local media for the first time since his introductory press conference last month. The Houston Texans new head coach answered questions from national and local media on Wednesday from the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
Here are five things we learned from Ryans at the Combine this week:
1. Defensive playcalling still TBD
Ryans may call plays on defense or he may defer those duties to Defensive Coordinator Matt Burke.
"We're still going through that process right now," Ryans said. "Haven't decided that just yet, but Matt (Burke) is very capable of calling defenses. He's done it before. He's knowledgeable of our scheme and how we want to play, so I'm very confident in Matt calling the plays as well."
2. Coaching staff complete
Last week, the Texans announced the complete coaching staff which includes Burke, OC Bobby Slowik and returning Special Teams Coordinator Frank Ross. Ryans, excited by the new hires, has familiarity with Slowik from their time together in San Francisco and played against Burke who served as DL coach for the NFC West rival Arizona Cardinals.
"Bobby has helped me as a coach grow," Ryans said. "I'm very excited to see Bobby get with our players. Guys are going to be fired up. He brings great energy. He's a great teacher. The guys he's been around, they love him. Then on the defensive side, adding Matt Burke. Another guy who is a passionate coach and a really great teacher, energetic, a very knowledgeable coach. I'm excited what he can do, what he can bring to our team. I think the guys are going to love him."
Ryans decided to retain current Special Teams Coordinator Frank Ross, now entering his third season in his current role with the Texans. In 2022, Ross' special teams unit ranked first in the NFL in average return yards allowed on kickoffs (19.0) and opponents average starting field position (22.2 yard-line).
Ross brings both continuity and a similar coaching mindset, according to Ryans.
3. QB selection
Ryans knows all too well the importance of the quarterback position, recalling the 49ers 2017 season when they started off 0-9 but finished with five consecutive wins after trading for Jimmy Garoppolo.
Here's what Ryans had to say about evaluating quarterbacks and whether to fit the system to the QB or the QB to the system:
"I think when you're evaluating quarterbacks, different quarterbacks can do a lot of different things," Ryans said. "I think the system is built around the quarterback as opposed to trying to fit a quarterback into a certain system. It's all about the player that you have, not only a quarterback, but a receiver. What does that guy do well? Linebackers, what do they do well? As coaches, you put guys in positions to be successful. It's not about a system per say. It's about just making sure that a player has the right tools and you're putting him in a spot where he can thrive."
4. Offensive vision
With the coaching staff complete, Ryans' vision for the offense is coming together. Like his defenses, Ryans wants the Texans offense to be "an attacking, aggressive offense."
"So it's the offensive line running off attacking," Ryans said. "It's the running backs attacking the line of scrimmage. It's an aggressive style. We want to be balanced, but we want to make sure we can run the ball very well. We want to be able to hang our hat on, running the ball, being able to dictate up front, but it's also in the passing game."
5. Late-round draft picks
The Texans currently have 11 picks in this year's draft. While plenty of emphasis is on what to do with the No. 2 and No. 12 overall selections, Ryans is just as excited about the Day 3 players. As a defensive coordinator, he has experience in finding and coaching those players become among the best in the league.
"The earlier guys they kind of separate themselves and that's easy to see," Ryans said. "But, where you find value is those fifth, sixth round, seventh round, those picks right there. For me, that's where you dig in and have to truly see what redeeming qualities does that guy have, whether it's speed, physicality, great hands. Whatever that redeeming quality is, can you see something in a kid that you can help him develop and become better? That's where for the 49ers, a guy like Dre Greenlaw, being able to get him late and now to see him play at an All-Pro level. I really pride myself on helping develop him. Azeez Al-Shaair, an undrafted free agent, seeing a physical guy, smart player and being able to help him thrive and develop, those are the guys I truly get excited about late in the Draft."
The 2023 NFL Combine runs from Feb. 27 through March 6.