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Tales from the SunnySide: Ryan McBean

Some men, they say, are born to ramble. Ryan McBean may be one of them. His road has already taken him to Jamaica, New York, Texas, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh and Denver.

Ryan McBean was born in Kingston, Jamaica as the son of Donnett McBean on April 23, 1984. He came to the United States when he was 14, moving to Brooklyn, NY for a few months. Then it was back to the road, this time wandering to Euless, TX. Texas is one of the 'Big Three' (with Florida and California) for finding talent among high school football

McBean soon found a home there; Ryan made the football team at Euless' Trinity High School and immediately found some success. He was a first-team All-District selection after his senior season as well as the district's Defensive MVP. He was also named first-team All-District by the Dallas Morning News.

His here-and-there life left him less ready to take on college than McBean was comfortable with, and he decided to attend Hinds Community College in 2003, going on to start 22 consecutive games over the next two seasons. He was a first-team All-Mississippi Association of Community and Junior College Conference pick in 2004, as he totaled 58 tackles with seven sacks and 12 stops behind the line of scrimmage

With his academics back where he wanted them, McBean looked around at the scholarship offers that had been pouring in. He received offers from Arkansas, Mississippi, Southern Mississippi and Texas but finally decided that Oklahoma State would be his next stop, starting in 2006. OSU had a solid group already on the defensive line, but McBean immediately broke into the starting lineup as a defensive tackle and sometime end, playing alongside Larry Brown. McBean is a natural leader, and the Cowboys followed his leadership to lead the Big 12 Conference and rank eighth in the nation, averaging 7.7 tackles behind the line of scrimmage per game.

"He can be physical and get around that gap in the line" said Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy about McBean. "His quick initial burst helps him hit the gap and force plays to the outside, disrupting the rhythm of the QB or the ball carrier. Those types of things are what make him a special player one who should be successful in the NFL for some time."

Ryan would go on to start 23 of 24 games he played in for the Cowboys. In those 24 games, McBean achieved 62 tackles (32 solo). He had 7.5 sacks for minus-59 yards and 13 stops for losses of 69 yards. He recovered and caused three fumbles while also deflecting one pass and blocking a kick. His line also scored 2.92 sacks per game. Those numbers earned him a trip to the Senior Bowl, where his performance helped him even further.

His next stop on the road was the Combine, where he was able to demonstrate his skills to a much larger audience. Ryan posted a 4.98 40-yard dash, a 28-inch vertical leap, 27 reps on the 225-lb. bench press. He also demonstrated good explosion - he timed at 1.64 in the 10-yd dash. By then he stood 6'5" and weighted in at 286 lbs. Tall and angular, with a rangy frame, McBean looks like he can add another 10-15 lbs. to his frame without hampering his quickness. Too light for a legitimate defensive tackle at the NFL level, he's a natural 5-technique defensive end for a 3-4 system. McBean is very durable, and never missed a single snap due to injury over the course of his college career.

Here are some quotes from his pre-draft scouting reports. From

Positives:  Has the play recognition skills and instincts to flow to the ball with ease...Shows decent knee bend and flexibility in his stance, demonstrating the short-area acceleration to string plays wide and take away the ball carrier's outside rush lanes...Has the quickness to give chase up field, showing the functional agility and loose hips to redirect...Has the power to stack and hold the pile at the line of scrimmage...Shows proper use of hands to gain leverage and the foot agility to generate a quick surge through the gaps...Can locate the running plays working through trash and keeps his pads down and arms properly extended to wrap tackle...When he keeps his hands inside the frame, he can stuff and shed quickly...Decisive in pursuit and goes low in his tackles to stop ball carriers at the line...Displays impressive power behind his hits and has the initial burst to knife into the backfield and the acceleration to zero in on the quarterback once he penetrates...Hard worker in the weight room...Maintains body control on the move and has an explosive first step off the snap...Has enough arm strength to reach out and drag the ball carrier to the ground...His best asset is shooting the gaps, as he has the quickness to pressure the pocket consistently...His hand quickness is evident by the activity he shows with them when executing counter moves...Alert to play-action and it is rare to see him get fooled by an erratic snap count...Keeps his head on a swivel to locate the ball and has a quick spin move to slip off the lineman and clog the interior rush lanes.

Negatives: More of a push rusher than one who displays technique...Has good quickness, but tires late in games and then reverts to leaning into blockers rather than trying to battle them...Can disappear for stretches, struggling to disengage when challenged by double teams (when he fails to extend his arms and keep his hands active, he will get tied up on blocks and lacks the bulk to split multiple blockers...Best making plays on the move, as he can get run over at the line of scrimmage at times due to a lack of ideal lower body strength...Has improved his pad level, but when he gets high in his stance, he leaves his chest too exposed...Gets out of control at times and tries to club blockers, making him late getting off blocks...Can be taken down by low blocks, as he doesn't use his hands to protect his body...Adequate wrap-up tackler, but needs to do it with better consistency (will collide or arm tackle on the move and bigger backs can bounce off those hits)...Has good leaping ability, but poor timing (with his reach, he should be knocking down more passes than he has). 

Compares To: LORENZO BROMELL-ex-Miami...McBean has that lanky frame that Bromell had, and the former Dolphin had good success penetrating the inside gaps, much like McBean. The OSU defender might not have the speed to shift to end, so he will need to bulk up, but he has the frame that can carry additional weight. He is more of a one-gap defender due to his frame, but he plays with good intensity and vision to be a nice pickup early in the second day.

ESPN Insider ran a good profile on him. Included in it were what they considered to be his strengths and weaknesses:

Possesses good size-potential. Anticipates snaps fairly well, has a quick first step and can disrupt running plays in the backfield. Keeps head up and generally locates the ball carrier quickly. Plays with a good motor and shows decent range. Moves well laterally and runs line stunts well. Flashes an effective rip move and closes well when gets a clear path to the passer. Flashes a decent spin move and is a relentless pass rusher. Keeps driving legs once in position and flashes the ability to collapse the pocket. Plays with a mean streak and can deliver a big hit when gets to the quarterback.

Lacks great lower body strength, he plays too high and can get driven off the ball. Aviods blockers rather than stacking them up, is overaggressive and gets caught out of position at times. Though he flashes a strong upper body and the ability to shed blocks quickly, he doesn't always use hands well and is somewhat inconsistent. Doesn't protect legs well and is vulnerable to cut blocks. Lacks ideal awareness and takes too long to react to screens as well as draws. Frequently fails to wap up upon contact and is an inconsistent tackler. Though relatively tall and has long arms, he doesn't always get hands up when isn't going to get to the quarterback

Ryan was taken in the 4th round (pick 132) of the 2007 NFL Draft by none other than the Pittsburgh Steelers. Faced with the daunting task of breaking into Dick LeBeau's brutal defensive line, McBean found himself sitting on the practice squad. After a couple of trips to the regular squad and back down to the PS in 2007, the Steelers, deep at DE, finally set him loose after training camp in 2008. Bob Slowik was flirting with the 3-4 defense and wanted the option of playing a true 5-technique DE, so the Broncos brought him on to their practice squad on September 1, 2008. He languished on the PS for the remainder of the year, but used his time wisely and hit the weight room, adding over 10 lbs. of muscle. Mike Nolan and Josh McDaniels liked what they saw, and by the May OTAs, he was a fixture at LDE. He's held the position throughout camp, and right now looks to be the Denver starting LDE for 2009. In his first training camp with the Broncos, McBean is already up to 297 lbs. of ripped muscle. He's a tireless worker in the weight room, and is resolving some conditioning issues that permitted him to disappear in the late stages of games in college. McBean even lays claim to having cover skills. He turned in a sack in his first preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers, but otherwise had mixed reviews.

"Ryan McBean showed up a little bit," Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said.
"The fresh start was real good for me, a new start, a new defense, it gave me a chance to start over brand new," McBean said recently. "I'm just taking every day for what it is, a chance to just go out and work and because another day is not given or anything."

With the effort he's given so far, Broncos fans are starting to hope that Ryan McBean will put down roots here in Denver. With a chip on their shoulders from being lumped in with last year's defense, the Broncos are looking to create a new name for themselves.

"Yeah," said Ryan, "You can tell with our guys that they want to win.  They heard about the stats from last year, and we want to change that a whole lot…The guys are willing to play hard."

With the fresh start that Ryan McBean is making, he could end up being a household name in Broncoland for many years to come. Maybe this king of the road is coming to Denver to settle down.