Should the New England Patriots Consider a Position Change for Logan Ryan?

James ChristensenContributor IApril 24, 2014

New England Patriots defensive back Logan Ryan, left, strips the ball from Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) in the third quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Michael Dwyer

After an impressive rookie season—featuring five interceptions in a reserve role—a position change could be in the works for cornerback Logan Ryan.

According to Karen Guregian of the Boston Heraldmoving Ryan to safety is being discussed by the New England Patriots' coaching staff:

Currently, the Pats are strongly considering a plan that would have cornerback Logan Ryan, who had five interceptions as a backup during his rookie season, play safety. According to a source, Ryan would take on the free safety role, while Devin McCourty would move to strong safety.

The discussion was likely prompted by the release of veteran strong safeties Steve Gregory and Adrian Wilson this offseason. The need at safety was partially blunted by the signing of former Patriot Patrick Chung, but his limitations are well-known.


Why It Happens

Rich Hill of Pats Pulpit had a great quote about Bill Belichick changing his defense to fit the talent on his roster. "Good coaches don't fill circular holes with square pegs. They amend the hole so the peg fits perfectly," Hill wrote. If New England doesn't have a Rodney Harrison on the roster—Devin McCourty doesn't fit that bill—change your scheme so you don't need one.

Ryan at free safety makes sense because his biggest weakness—long speed—is mitigated by the impressive press corners that will be playing in front of him. Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner won't let receivers easily take the top off of the defense. 

Jan 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno (27) is tackled by New England Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan (26) during the 2013 AFC Championship football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Mark J.

Like McCourty, you can't consider Ryan a shrinking violet when it comes to his tackling duties. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Ryan had as many sacks as missed tackles during his rookie season. You don't have to hit like Brandon Meriweather to be effective. Doing your job and wrapping up is more than adequate.


Why It Doesn't

The biggest hurdle to Ryan starting at safety isn't Chung, it is fellow Rutgers alum and second-year player Duron Harmon. Harmon was solid—if unspectacular—filling in for Gregory last year. He showed good range and was able to get to the sideline in time to close the window between the corner and safety in Cover 2.

Harmon's size—205 pounds versus Ryan's 195—also gives him a bit of an edge, as it helps him stand up to bigger tight ends and his responsibilities in the box. McCourty—also 195 pounds—and Ryan would certainly be one of the smaller tandems at safety in the NFL.

Browner's four-game suspension to start the season will also limit Ryan's opportunities. Ryan will likely be either a starter alongside Revis or the first cornerback off the bench. Therefore, projecting to play safety before Week 5 might be a bit premature.


Draft-Day Decisions 

If he is on the fence for Ryan's future position, Belichick might let the draft decide for him. If New England can find a dynamic safety like Jimmie Ward (Northern Illinois), Ha'Sean "Ha Ha" Clinton-Dix (Alabama) or Calvin Pryor (Louisville) in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft, the need for Ryan to move to safety becomes next to none. 

Calvin Pryor could give New England a strong presence in the box.
Calvin Pryor could give New England a strong presence in the box.USA TODAY Sports

Ryan's presence—along with Harmon and Chung—on the team, however, allows New England to be patient. They won't need to reach for a safety.

Wherever Ryan is lined up in 2014, look for him to continue to develop into one of the brightest young stars on a vastly improved Patriots defense.