- Associated Press - Thursday, October 27, 2011

IRVING, TEXAS (AP) - Within a few days of working for Rob Ryan, the defensive players on the Dallas Cowboys were thrilled with their new boss.

They fed off the energy and excitement he showed in meetings and on the practice field. They were certain his exotic schemes were exactly what was needed to turn the worst defense in franchise history into one of the NFL’s best.

Then Ryan did what members of his family do. He shared some of his confidence with reporters.

Tired of hearing about the juggernaut the Philadelphia Eagles were putting together, Ryan said: “I don’t know if we win the all-hype team. I think that might have gone to somebody else, but we’re going to beat their (rear) when we play them.”

While some of his players may have felt that way, too, they weren’t about to say it.

“We were like, ‘Rob, what the (heck) are you doing?’ We don’t know you, man. You can’t come in here and do that,’” linebacker Bradie James said.

At the time, it seemed as if Ryan was just keeping up the family tradition of talking big, like his twin brother Rex and his dad, Buddy.

Now, with the teams preparing to meet Sunday night, that bulletin-board material looks awfully clever.

Ryan’s play-calling and personality has transformed Dallas into the top-ranked defense in the NFC. The Eagles, meanwhile, are 2-4 and looking up at the Cowboys (3-3) and everyone else in the NFC East.

Ryan’s early August braggadocio hasn’t been forgotten by either team, and is certain to be played up during the national, prime-time broadcast. It adds another layer to a rivalry once fueled by Rob’s dad, and to a matchup filled with ramifications for both teams.

“We’ve got your back,” James told Ryan this week, before challenging his boss to make sure the unit is ready for big-play threats Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson.

Ryan’s response?

“Shoot yeah! You know I’m up! I’m drinking Red Bulls all night!” James said in a Ryan-esque voice.

Through six games, the Cowboys have adopted the personality of their sideline leader, save for the long, stringy hair and oversized belly.

Using exotic formations and an aggressive mindset, Dallas is allowing the fewest yards rushing in the NFL.

Story Continues →