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Ryan Not Using Injuries As Excuse; Wilber To Play More
IRVING, Texas – Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan doesn’t want to overplay the negative effect of the rampant string of injuries creeping through his defense.
He’ll face another challenging task of replacing injured starters this week with linebacker Bruce Carter on injured reserve, cornerback Orlando Scandrick receiving surgery on his wrist and safety Charlie Peprah and nose tackle Jay Ratliff listed as doubtful against the Eagles.
“It’s somebody else’s opportunity, and we’re approaching it that way,” said Ryan. “The nice thing about this is we’ve got really good depth on our team. We keep adding good football players. Our scouting department has done a phenomenal job.”
Ratliff has missed practice all week with a groin injury. Ryan said if there’s any way Ratliff can play, he will, but he doesn’t anticipate the nose tackle being available. Rookie defensive lineman Ben Bass also missed practice with an ankle injury and will be out this weekend.
Bass would have provided more depth at a position that’s already lost Kenyon Coleman for the season, but Ryan does expect to get defensive lineman Sean Lissemore back this week and doesn’t believe the injuries are as critical as many would believe.
“Some people would make it out that they lose one player and all hell breaks loose,” Ryan said. “Please, we’ve lost a thousand. We’re just hanging in there. We’re fine. No excuse. We’re working hard. We’ve got good players all through our roster, and they’re having to prove it this year.”
Another player who could provide more depth is veteran Brady Poppinga, who joined the squad earlier this week, but Ryan didn’t sound too optimistic about the linebacker being ready to contribute Sunday. Ryan said he’s excited about the addition and the linebacker’s enthusiasm, but it might be more likely Poppinga plays a more substantial role next week.
The backup linebacker more likely to see the field against the Eagles is fourth-round draft pick Kyle Wilber. Ernie Sims and Dan Connor are the expected starters at inside linebacker in the base 3-4 defense, but Ryan said Wilber could see “anywhere from 12 to 50” snaps, depending on how the Eagles choose to attack.
“He’s going to play,” Ryan said. “He’ll have his letter after this game with a big ‘D’ on his shirt. But the kid has got to come through for us. It’s Baptism under fire. He’s going to be fine. All these guys have answered the call for us. We believe in everybody on our roster and this young man’s going to step up and do great.”
Ryan complimented Wilber’s cover ability and instincts. The rookie will move from outside to inside at linebacker to adjust for injuries, joining a long list of players in Ryan’s system who’ve shifted around the defense.
Wilber has played in seven games this season with only two tackles. Despite his lack of playing time and inexperience on the inside of a 3-4 defense, Wilber said he should be able to handle the task this week playing mostly in sub-packages.
“Hopefully I’m ready enough,” Wilber said. “My team has faith in me. I have faith in myself. It’s going to be a good turnout.”
Linebacker Alex Albright, who has rotated around the various linebacker positions this year, will also provide depth at the position, while cornerback Mike Jenkins will take over in Scandrick’s spot on the inside of the secondary.
“Last week he’d never worked in there, so when Scandrick got hurt, that was pretty tough on him,” Ryan said. “Obviously it looked that way. We have to have answers quicker than we did, but Mike Jenkins had a great week of practice. I think he’s excited for the challenge, and I think he’ll be up to it. I know he will.”
Jenkins is accustomed to playing on the outside, but Ryan said it should help the cornerback’s value if he can become a force against the slot receiver.
“He’s an excellent player,” Ryan said. “He’s going to have great success this week, and that’ll be even better. The more you can do the better.”