Texans' 2nd-round pick becomes standout

October 27th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Texans' 2nd-round pick becomes standout


HOUSTON - Mario Williams proclaimed on draft day that he would make an immediate impact with the Houston Texans, and fellow rookie DeMeco Ryans made 13 tackles in the season opener.
Six games into the season, the No. 1 pick is still adjusting, while Ryans has already become Houston's defensive star.
Ryans, a middle linebacker who was the top pick in the second round, leads the Texans with 53 tackles and his 44 solo tackles are the fifth most in the league.
"He's been exceptional," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "I think we can build our football team around him."
At 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds, Ryans was panned for being too small in the weeks leading up to the draft. But the Texans loved his attitude and playmaking ability and felt lucky to get him in the second round.
"I had no doubt that he was going to be a good player," Texans linebackers coach Johnny Holland said. "He's playing like a first-round draft pick, which we thought he would."
While acknowledging that playing in the NFL is a dream come true, Ryans doesn't seem to be overly affected by his early success. He said the only difference for him between college and the pros was learning a new playbook.
"It's just football, it's what I've been doing," he said. "It's just fun to me and the game doesn't change. It picked up a little bit, but it's still all fun and games."
Perhaps more impressive than Ryans' play has been his ability to become a leader on the defense as a 22-year-old rookie. It's a role Kubiak encouraged him to embrace.
"This is the role he needed to play for this team," Kubiak said. "He's taken it on and been exceptional. For the future of the team to think that he will be in the middle for this football team for a long, long time, leading this defense, that's very encouraging."
Ryans, who was named Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year after leading Alabama with 76 tackles, feels like it gets easier to be a leader each week.
"I know that's what you expect out of your middle linebacker," he said. "I'm becoming more comfortable with that role as I continue to do it and the guys have taken hold of it more."
Easygoing and laid back, Ryans plays with the confidence of someone who has been in the NFL for years. There didn't seem to be a rookie learning curve for Ryans, who has led the team in tackles since the first game.
"If you don't have the confidence that you can do it, you're going to struggle," he said. "Because you'll always be thinking about it ... instead of just going out and doing it and being yourself and letting loose."
Ryans also has 1 1/2 sacks, but worries about the handful of times he has gotten to quarterbacks but wasn't able to take them down on a blitz.
"I've got to make a couple of those sacks I keep missing," he said. "Leaving them out there is kind of tough. I have to kind of settle down when I get there - I'm going too fast. They give me one move and I'm missing them."
Holland said Ryans is learning to be patient with the blitz since he didn't blitz much in college. But he does remind him often that he should have made those sacks he missed.
He said that much of Ryans' success can be attributed to his work ethic and study habits.
"The guy can learn really well," Holland said. "You tell him something in the classroom, he can take it right on the field and do it. But there's a lot of stuff he's still going to learn and get a lot better. He hasn't even really scratched the surface as far as his ability."

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