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Ryans refuses to let up


After leading the team in tackles for the last two years, Pro Bowl linebacker DeMeco Ryans has emerged as the team's defensive leader. So it is only natural that Ryans has been designated the Texans player who will wear the defensive transmitter approved by the NFL's head coaches this offseason.

The device, which is similar to the one worn by quarterbacks, will fit into Ryans' helmet. Before the 2008 season, Ryans and the defensive players had relied solely on hand signals. Now, Ryans will be relaying calls coming straight to his ears from defensive coordinator Richard Smith.

{QUOTE}Taking on an increased leadership role should not pose many challenges for the Ryans. The third-year pro often directs traffic from the Mike linebacker spot, and he's been leading the team by example since he was drafted in the second round in 2006.

"That's always been my approach, since high school and college," Ryans said. "If I do it right, then I lead by example and guys will see me doing it right and they'll follow after me."

If the Texans' other linebackers are anywhere close to Ryans, the team will be in good shape in 2008. Ryans was the most productive linebacker in the NFL over his first two seasons, notching a league-best 283 tackles and 224 solo tackles.

Last season, he battled a nagging knee injury but started all 16 games and finished seventh in the league with 127 tackles and sixth with 98 solo stops. The three-down linebacker downplayed the injury to keep coaches from taking him off the field.

Now, a healthy Ryans has been just as adamant about maximizing his reps during OTAs. Even when coaches try to rotate in some of the newer players or simply give him a breather, Ryans finds a way to keep himself in the lineup.

"I can't sit on the sidelines when they call the 1's up," Ryans said. "I'm supposed to be out there. Whenever they tell me that, 'Coach doesn't want you going on all the reps,' I still find a way to sneak past (linebackers coach) Johnny (Holland) and get out there anyways.

"When we are out here practicing, I don't want to be the guy coming off the field, taking days off, taking plays off. I just want to let them see that I can go out and work every day as hard as I can."

The Texans coaches certainly have noted as much.

"He's a warrior," head coach Gary Kubiak said. "We actually tried to take some reps off of him, he won't do it. He won't take them off. That's why he's such a great player, and that's why his teammates respect him so much."

Ryans' attitude is helping to elevate the play of a linebacking unit that includes veteran Morlon Greenwood, rookie Xavier Adibi, second-year pro Zac Diles and free agent acquisitions Chaun Thompson and Kevin Bentley.

"I want to improve all the guys around me," Ryans said. "If I can do that and make everyone else better, I feel like we can have our goal of being a playoff team this year and that's what we are definitely looking forward to. We are just working right now, grinding and going through the grinding phase to get to where we want to be."

Specifically, Ryans would like to see the linebackers create more turnovers and become more dominant pass rushers. Ryans thinks that more teams will double team defensive end Mario Williams next season, creating an opening for the linebackers to get to the quarterback on the weak side.

"We are looking forward to getting pressure on the quarterback, creating sacks and causing turnovers," Ryans said. "If we are putting pressure on the quarterback and making them make erratic throws, then we'll get picks in the back end.

"On the blitz, we are working on our pass rush a lot more. We're just cutting things down to where we get good at certain things. With our defensive line, Mario is definitely getting better, coming off the ball a lot better. They're going to have to put two on Mario, so that's going to open up somebody else."

Ryans' ability to see the field is just another reason why the linebacker is the ideal candidate for the defensive transmitter. From warrior to leader to play transmitter, it all comes naturally to Ryans.

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