It's a matter of trust.
With so much change in the Patriots secondary in the departures of Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Kyle Arrington and Alfonzo Dennard, the Patriots are down to only two cornerbacks with real, significant experience in their defense.
The other is Logan Ryan, a third-year cornerback who has had an up-and-down start to his career—the up being his rookie season, in which he led all rookies with five interceptions, and the down being his second season, in which he was a square peg of a zone-coverage cornerback being shoved into a round hole of a man-coverage scheme.
|Patriots' CB depth|
The Patriots appear to be headed back to a zone-heavy scheme, with fewer physical, big-bodied cornerbacks at their disposal and more finesse, smaller, quicker cornerbacks. Thus, the time is ripe for Ryan to realize the success of his rookie season.
There's quite a deep competition brewing for the top spots in the Patriots secondary, with several veteran offseason additions as well as some young guns aiming to make an early impact. Ryan's experience in the defense should be a big advantage in his favor.
The coaching staff certainly seems to have trust in Ryan; he has been one of the top cornerbacks receiving reps at Patriots organized team activities, and he has made the most of his opportunities by making a lot of plays.
In the end, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald counted three pass breakups and an interception for Ryan in team drills.
Ryan came on strong in his rookie year with five interceptions and 10 pass breakups, but he hit a little bit of a slump in his second year with only two interceptions and seven pass breakups. As mentioned previously, some of those issues could be attributed to a scheme that didn't necessarily fit Ryan's skill set perfectly.
The Patriots' coaching staff never seemed to lose trust in Ryan, though, and he earned the third-most snaps of any cornerback on the roster last season, according to Pro Football Focus, despite yielding a higher passer rating into his coverage than in his rookie season.
At a glance, veterans Robert McClain and Bradley Fletcher are the only cornerbacks who could threaten Ryan's playing time in 2015.
McClain has been a solid slot cornerback in multiple stops throughout his career, and although Fletcher struggled mightily last year (53 percent completions, nine touchdowns, 107.6 passer rating into his coverage in 2014), he is showing up with big plays at OTAs and has proven he can hang in the NFL in the past.
That being said, Ryan still holds the edge due to his knowledge of the Patriots system. Experience isn't going to cut it on its own, though, and Ryan knows where he must improve.
"Technique and consistency," he said. "I think that's what the position is. I think anybody can make one good play, but to string them together and limit those bad plays is something I'm always aiming to do."
The Patriots' overall depth at cornerback will be tested in 2015, perhaps now more than ever, but last year's depth will be this year's starters. Ryan appears to have earned the trust of the Patriots' coaching staff; now, the question is whether he can keep it.
Unless otherwise noted, all practice notes and quotes obtained firsthand. All advanced stats provided by ProFootballFocus.com.