The New England Patriots have a good problem on their hands. They have what could be described as too many good defensive backs.
With SI.com reporting that injuries are occurring at a higher rate than ever before, it's fair to wonder whether there is such thing as too much of a good thing.
The Patriots' logjam in the secondary, though, has led some to wonder whether a position change could be in the cards.
At first, the speculation centered around newly acquired cornerback Brandon Browner as a potential fit at strong safety. That idea died a fast and inglorious death when Browner said the team did not talk to him about switching positions.
Ryan played well at cornerback in 2013, starting seven games and playing 57.4 percent of the defensive snaps on the season. If he stays there, he would probably move to the slot when Browner returns from his four-game suspension to start the season.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is always coming up with new ways to get his 11 best players on the field, which is why he's always looking for players with positional versatility.
If Ryan were to play free safety, Guregian notes that Devin McCourty would be called on to make yet another position change, moving from free safety to strong safety.
The safety positions are somewhat interchangeable, but McCourty has emerged as a premier NFL safety, with his sideline-to-sideline range largely to thank. Moving him out of the free safety role would mitigate his ability to use that speed and the degree to which it could be a factor.
What about moving Ryan to strong safety?
The Patriots have been searching for answers there for years, with two veteran free agents (Steve Gregory and Adrian Wilson) and two high draft picks (Tavon Wilson and Duron Harmon) over the past two years.
Like McCourty, Ryan does not possess the build or physicality of a prototypical strong safety. Moreover, Harmon played well in that role as a rookie.
Harmon showed both range and an ability to make good open-field tackles. Against the Baltimore Ravens, he was around the ball anytime quarterback Joe Flacco went deep. He made a hit on the receiver on two consecutive throws down the sideline, including the one above intended for wide receiver Marlon Brown.
It's also possible that Ryan could practice at safety on a limited basis just so he has the experience doing it in the event that an injury creates a hole.
The Patriots would be wise to be ready for those possible situations, but there's plenty of time before the season begins and things can happen over the course of the year that will cause the secondary to take a new shape.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases.
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