DeMeco Ryans – LB – 2006-2011
If this ranking was simply based on raw talent, J.J. Watt may have edged out DeMeco Ryans for the top spot, but the linebacker’s longevity and consistent production over his time at Houston have helped him hold on to #1. Ryans played for the Texans for six years, and he was an integral part of the defense for that entire time, before being replaced by current starter Brian Cushing.
Ryans held down the middle of the Texans defense, and was a solid stout leader, known for his toughness and hard hits. As a team captain, DeMeco Ryans was crucial to the development of the Texans, and a key piece to Houston’s emergence as a playoff contender towards the end of the 2000’s.
Ryans remains the Texans all-time leader in tackles, with 636, over 150 more than Cushing’s 483. He is also second in defensive fumble recoveries, fifth in forced fumbles, and has played and started in more games than any other Houston Texans defender.
The linebacker won the Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 2006, after finishing second in the NFL in total tackles with 155. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 2007 and 2009, as well as being chosen as a First Team All-Pro player in 2007. Ryans was also awarded with the Ed Block Courage Award in 2011, as a player voted by his teammates as a role model of inspiration, sportsmanship, and courage.
Ryans continues to have success as a defender, now with the Philadelphia Eagles, but his years as a Houston Texan were nothing short of excellent. DeMeco’s athleticism, toughness, intelligence, and leadership are what make him the best defender to ever play for the Texans. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few short years J.J. Watt usurps him in this position, and possibly even Brian Cushing, but for now DeMeco Ryans will sit at the top of the list.