The New England Patriots need a safety, and old friend Logan Ryan is still on the market. While Ryan spent the early portion of his career playing cornerback, the Patriots should convert him to a safety. Before you click away, hear me out. This isn’t just the wild thoughts of a blogger, Ryan reportedly views himself as a safety and wants to play the position at his next stop.
Logan Ryan, New England Patriots Need to Reunite
The Patriots, of course, have arguably the best secondary in all of football. Stephon Gilmore is the best cornerback in the game, and guys like J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, and Jonathan Jones are all proven veterans capable of near-elite play.
However, New England’s safety depth took a major hit over the offseason. After re-signing Devin McCourty, the team had to trade Duron Harmon in order to manufacture some cap space. While Harmon was never a true starter, his ability to play center field and take away the deep pass was instrumental for New England’s defensive philosophy. On top of that, Patrick Chung opted out, leaving New England without their reliable linebacker-safety hybrid.
McCourty is still great, but the starting spot opposite him is a giant question mark. Adrian Phillips is an interesting signing, but he could spend most of the year playing linebacker. The Patriots lost four of their top five linebackers over the offseason, and Phillips might have to spend more time in the front seven.
Should that happen, the next safety on the depth chart is Terrence Brooks. Brooks is a fine player and the Patriots could probably get by with him in the secondary, but there’s certainly room for improvement there. Logan Ryan would be a perfect fit opposite McCourty, as his familiarity with the system and style of play make him an ideal signing candidate.
Familiarity in the System
The most important thing with a Bill Belichick defense is communication and understanding the system. Getting a new player up to speed is difficult even under ideal circumstances, but this year is anything but normal.
Thanks to COVID-19, there isn’t going to be a preseason. Making matters worse is that padded practices won’t begin until the middle of August. The team will still have non-padded practices and meetings, but there’s no substitute for the real thing. Anyone added to the roster at this point in the season would be fighting a major uphill battle to get on the same page with the defense.
Of course, this disadvantage goes away if you already know the system. Ryan spent four years in New England, so he obviously has a grasp of what to do in a Belichick defense. Obviously, schemes evolve over time and the Patriots aren’t running the exact same defense now that they were in 2015. However, the general philosophy and terminology is the same, so Ryan should be able to catch up in no time.
Even though Logan Ryan played cornerback throughout the majority of his career, he actually has a good skill set for the safety position. Ryan was never the fastest player, and his biggest weakness was keeping up with speedier guys down the field. That disadvantage basically goes away at safety, as Ryan would be primarily responsible for covering tight ends and running backs.
From a measurable standpoint, Ryan actually matched up surprisingly well with Patrick Chung. The only major discrepancy is weight, as Ryan weighs 191 pounds while Chung is 211 pounds. This suggests that Ryan is a little undersized relative to the typical NFL safety and could struggle against bigger opponents.
Size could be an issue with Ryan, but it hasn’t been in the past. In 2015 and 2016, Ryan and Malcolm Butler starred as New England’s starting duo. During this stretch, Butler tended to cover the speedier receiver while Ryan took the larger receiver. The most notable matchup using this gameplan came in 2015, when Ryan held the much bigger DeAndre Hopkins to just one catch for 30 yards while in coverage.
This obviously isn’t a perfect one-for-one comparison, but it shows Ryan can hold up against larger receivers. At the very least, he’s worth a shot on a one-year deal. You can never have too many good coverage players, and the Patriots have a plethora of cap space.