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DeMeco Ryans: Eagles defense 'much improved'

PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Eagles left their defense in pretty good shape going into the NFL draft at the end of this month.

Coach Chip Kelly said at the NFL owners meetings that it was a priority to even up the amount of salary cap space allotted to the offense and defense. Last year, the Eagles were financially one-sided, with the offense getting the extra money.

The Eagles are still in need of a starting safety. Other than that, though, they have filled most of their needs and can approach the draft looking for the best available players on either side of the ball.

“I feel like this is really a much-improved defense," veteran linebacker DeMeco Ryans said Thursday in an appearance on CSN Philly.

With the additions of cornerbacks Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond, linebacker Kiko Alonso and the re-signing of outside linebacker Brandon Graham, the Eagles will certainly look different.

"We got better on the outside, which we struggled at last year,” Ryans said. “We had a lot of struggles there on the outside at the corner position, so I feel we've upgraded there with Maxwell, a guy that you've seen make a lot of plays for the Seahawks. A guy like Kiko, who his rookie year was a really outstanding player, up for defensive rookie of the year, a playmaker all over the field, and another guy in Thurmond, who is expected to definitely push guys to be the starting corner on the other side. So I feel like we upgraded at a lot of positions, and I feel like it's really going to improve our defense."

That’s pretty candid stuff from Ryans. You would not have heard him be so critical of the cornerback play while Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher were still his teammates. His willingness to be so forthright tells you that our eyes weren’t deceiving us. The cornerback play was a problem, everybody knows it, and Kelly was determined to solve it this offseason.

Thurmond is expected to compete with Nolan Carroll for the other cornerback spot – unless, of course, the Eagles draft a cornerback.

As for the linebackers, Ryans said he expected to be ready by the beginning of training camp. He missed the second half of the 2014 season after rupturing his Achilles tendon.