FOXBOROUGH — Much ado about nothing.
So far, that’s the result of the offseason storyline of a potential position change for cornerback Logan Ryan — at least at this very early stage of the offseason workout program.
As a rookie, Ryan started seven games in relief of Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard when each missed time due to injury. With Talib out the door, it looked for a moment like Ryan would get a chance to start in a larger capacity. Those moments passed quickly, as the Patriots scooped up veteran free-agents Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner.
With those two on the perimeter, Ryan may not get to play much unless he changes positions. As of right now, Ryan is playing coy about the potential of lining up at a new position.
“Right now I’m at corner,” he said. “I’m prepared for anything. I’m just trying to become a better defensive back.”
It’s not too late for Ryan to get some work in at safety — this is only the second week of organized team activities — but it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition in the first place. Ryan lined up at safety on a limited basis in 2013, so his position versatility could allow him to move around the secondary even in a limited role.
“Well I think you take it from collective of what you have as a group, and whatever’s going to be best for us defensively within that week to move those guys,” said defensive backs coach Josh Boyer. “If it’s, ‘Hey, you’ve got to play a different position, this is going to be what’s best game plan for us this week, you know, that’s what we’ll ask a guy to do. And obviously, we try to marry that up with their skill set.”
At 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, Ryan is a little small for a strong safety, but his man coverage skills could provide a nice option in situations that would call for a safety to fill those responsibilities. The Patriots have struggled to adequately cover tight ends. Ryan could carve out a niche role in that respect.
The Patriots have tried several players at the position over the years. They signed safety Steve Gregory in 2012, and drafted Tavon Wilson in the second round later that offseason; they drafted Duron Harmon in the third round in 2013.
When Gregory was released earlier this offseason, speculation began that Ryan could make a full-on move to help the Patriots address a position of apparent need. Bill Belichick fueled it further when asked if Ryan could factor in at the safety position more this year than last year.
“I think, yeah, we’ll have to see how it all goes,” he said. “Last year [Marquice] Cole sort of did that, played some safety, played some nickel corner, played a little bit on the perimeter. Logan did that. We’ll have to see how it all comes together, but I would imagine in the spring that we probably give those guys some exposure [at safety]. Somebody, I don’t know if all of them.
“Again, we’ll just have to see how it goes here. Again, I think there’s definitely a place for that too with the different personnel groups and the different types of receivers that we see. Every time it’s three receivers, it isn’t quite three receivers; it depends on who those three guys are and how you want to match up on them and so forth. So some flexibility for us defensively is probably a good thing over a long haul.”
It would not be an unprecedented move. Devin McCourty made the full-time move to safety from cornerback in 2012, under similar circumstances, and he has developed into one of the premier safeties in the NFL.
There is still plenty of time and plenty of workouts left before anything is set in stone, but for now, Ryan’s position change is a non-story.