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Why Logan Ryan Is the New England Patriots' Best Bet at Cornerback

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IJune 11, 2015

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 28:  Logan Ryan #26 of the New England Patriots speaks with team owner Robert Kraft before a game agsint the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on December 28, 2014 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

It's a matter of trust.

No, this isn't Billy Joel, this is playing cornerback in the New England Patriots defense.

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.

One of those cornerbacks is Malcolm Butler, the Super Bowl hero who made the game-saving interception at the goal line off Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

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
PlayerHtWtExp
Logan Ryan5'11"1952
Malcolm Butler5'11"1901
Bradley Fletcher6'0"2006
Robert McClain5'9"1955
Daxton Swanson5'11"1911
Darryl Roberts6'0"182R
Jimmy Jean6'3"180R
Derek Cox6'1"1955
Justin Green5'11"1952
Source: Patriots.com

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.

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Jeff Howe @jeffphowe

Huge day for Logan Ryan with a handful of PBUs. Will count them after.

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.

Logan Ryan
Year20132014
Tgt6871
Rec3839
Cth %55.954.9
Yds515532
Y/R13.613.6
TD33
INT52
PBU68
Rate64.381.4
Source: ProFootballFocus.com

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.

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