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Film study: What will Logan Ryan bring to Giants’ secondary?

Wild Card Round - Tennessee Titans v New England Patriots Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

Boom! The Giants finally did it! After a six-month cat-and-mouse game played by the New York Giants and veteran free agent Logan Ryan, the two have finally come to a deal - one year with a maximum value of $7.5 million. The agreement was reached after Ryan fired his former agent and hired Joel Segal. Ryan’s former agents were demanding around $10 million per year (at least at the time of free agency back in March).

Ryan found that the market was difficult at that high number, so the 29-year-old former Patriot and Titan went in another direction. The move comes at a great time for the Giants, a team that lost DeAndre Baker to legal issues, Sam Beal to a COVID-19 opt-out and rookie safety Xavier McKinney to a broken foot.

The two-time Super Bowl champion (with Joe Judge and the New England Patriots), is still playing relatively well. He had 103 total tackles, 12 passes defended, 5 interceptions, and 15 total pressures in 2019. Conversely, he did also surrender 1,098 yards, 7 touchdowns, and was penalized 11 times. His catch percentage was at 70.2 according to Pro Football Focus, and he was targeted the most of any cornerback.

Also to the benefit of the Giants, Ryan proved to be a versatile piece of Mike Vrabel’s defense. In 2018, he lined up 538 times in the slot, 167 times at wide corner, and 124 times in the box. Last season, he played 855 snaps in the slot, 243 at wide corner, and 180 times in the box.

Let’s look at some film.

Run defense

Ryan is incredibly instinctive and quick to shoot inside as the apex defender.

(Ryan is No. 26)

He comes in aggressively from the top left part of your screen, instantaneously reads his run keys and beats the wide receivers inside. Once inside, Ryan locates the running back in the opposite side A-Gap.

We saw Julian Love execute this at a high-level last season. By reading the flow of the blocks from the snap, against a split-wide zone look from the Kansas City Chiefs, Ryan is able to see Travis Kelce (87) coming from the far side and stay tight to the line of scrimmage to avoid the block. Kelce doesn’t anticipate Ryan being a backside defender on what looked like a designed blitz. Ryan easily evades Kelce and gets to Damian Williams (26) for the tackle.

Above are two great clips against a solid running team in Oakland. In the top video, before the snap, Ryan notices his coverage assignment shift inward and anticipates a possible run. This allows him to shoot off the backside of the tackle, avoid the receiver’s blocking angle entirely, and get into the backfield to execute his run fit and stop the Oakland rushing attack. In the second video, Ryan is on the opposite side of the field and is lined up in press. Once the snap happens, Ryan flows laterally with the play and is unblocked to the running back’s path, resulting in a negative play for the Raiders.

Ryan is assigned to follow the motioning offensive player in the “zone-read” with two outside blockers for Lamar Jackson. Ryan follows the motioning player and sees the play develop while doing an excellent job working through the would-be blocking attempts and taking a wide angle to force Jackson into a losing situation. Ryan’s fellow Titans spill Jackson toward’s his path and the play never gets to develop.

Ryan shows a lot of football intelligence when he’s playing against the run and he consistently puts himself into great positions to make tackles on ballcarriers.

Ryan was also trusted, when playing outside corner, to be a force defender on the EDGE. The Titans’ EDGE defender crashes into the B-Gap in this 12 personnel set from the Cleveland Browns. Ryan is to the left of your screen and he crashes down off the shoulder of the offensive tackle who is blocking down. Ryan sets outside, boxing Nick Chubb (24) inward towards the rest of the defense. The play result is a tackle for Ryan and a minimal gain for Chubb. Looks easy, but it’s a responsibility that not every NFL corner can deal with.

Plays on the ball

Joe Judge recently expressed the importance of turnovers in the NFL. Ryan does a good job putting himself into positions to make aggressive plays on the football.

The Colts are out in a bunch formation to the right with Ryan on T.Y. Hilton (13), who happens to be on the line of scrimmage. Hilton releases with an inside stem and Ryan opens his hips to ride his outside shoulder until Hilton pivots back inside against man coverage, with a clear out outside. Ryan gets his body turned around quickly, collects his balance smoothly, and then undercuts the pass to get an interception. He did something similar the week before against the Browns.

Here we have an Ohio concept from the Browns. Ryan engages Jarvis Landry (80) at the top of his outside break. Ryan is able to stay on the outside hip of Landry and bait Baker Mayfield into throwing a dangerous pass, outside the numbers, and into the flat. Ryan undercuts the pass and gets an interception.

Against the Chiefs, Ryan faces a tight stack and shows some pre-snap movement faking into the box. At the snap, Ryan sees the No. 2 receiver break inside, rendering him not a responsibility anymore. Then, he follows the outside breaking receiver into the flat and makes a good break on the ball to break up the pass.

Tennessee is in Cover 2 dropping just beyond the sticks in this play. Ryan is being high-lowed (with the more dangerous player being the deeper player) as the apex defender to the bottom of your screen. This play is a microcosm of the awareness that Ryan possesses in zone coverage and how he understands maneuvers to combat certain route combinations. We can see him eyeing the running back in the flat, as he flows to the top of the 40-yard line, yet he stays within striking distance of the receiver who is attempting to find the soft spot in the zone coverage. It’s a fine line and Ryan dancing on it with confidence. Once Pat Mahomes releases the football, Ryan explodes back towards the receiver and knocks the ball down.

This is an excellent play by Ryan, who doesn’t allow the pick/slot wheel route to deter him from disallowing Sammy Watkins (14) from scoring a touchdown. In a reduced split, Watkins releases outside the numbers while Demarcus Robinson (11) attempts to legally pick Ryan. The corner fights through the pick attempt, chews up grass to locate Watkins, and then gets his hands up to disrupt the catch point.

We see Ryan as the backside boundary cornerback to a one tight end side. In the Cover 3 defense, he establishes his easy outside leverage and flows inward to stay with Nick Boyle (86), who gets right beyond the sticks and attempts to turn around. Ryan quickly sinks his hips and plants and drives downward through the catch point while not committing a penalty (something he did a bit too often last season). This was in the Titans’ playoff upset against the Ravens.

Another excellent, and intelligent play, by Ryan above. He is split by a tight end and the slot receiver and is able to feel both routes while eyeing down the quarterback and breaking up a play. Ryan opens his hips against the tight end once he sees the quarterback loading up to throw the football. He was put into a spot where he had to cover two close receiving options and still made a quality play on the football.

Ryan battles Michael Thomas out of the slot above and does a good job. The cornerback stays with Thomas off his release and rides the inside portion of the receiver up his stem. Drew Brees attempts to hit Thomas on the back-shoulder but Ryan’s reactionary quickness and disruptive ability at the catch point are too good in this rep. Ryan quickly grabs the upfield shoulder of Thomas and strips the ball out of his arms forcing an almost fumble, but it was determined to be an incomplete pass.

Plays after catch

Latavius Murray isn’t the most fleet of foot, but this is a really good open-field tackle, with a lot of space, by Logan Ryan. This is a true clear-out concept with to receivers running deep post routes to open up the outside for the dump off to Murray. Ryan recognizes the play and is able to square up to Murray and not allow him to break off a big gain.

This is a third-and-7 play by the Saints and Ryan is tasked to cover the inside drag to the tight end. Ryan doesn’t have much leverage to cover this route, but he’s able to explode horizontally and get to the tight end to make the tackle before he picks up the first down. Good athleticism and competitive toughness to not allow the chains to move.

Here’s another pick route that Ryan overcomes. He flows over the top of the tight end’s vertical release while his receiving responsibility flows underneath the pick. Ryan quickly recognizes and flows over the top of the pick and hastily explodes downhill to tackle the receiver for a minimal gain.

Ryan is at the top of your screen on the boundary against Alvin Kamara (41). Ryan is utilizing his vision to see the quick flat route from the No. 2 receiver. He also sees Brees eye the route right after the snap, so Ryan is able to jump the No. 2 route and make a quick tackle on the play. Yet another play where his football intelligence and awareness were on display.

Ryan is head up on Kelce against the pivot China concept. Kelce runs a nice stick/nod to keep Ryan guessing at the top of his break. Ryan isn’t phased by the route manipulation of Kelce, but the throw and positioning of Kelce’s large body is a bit too much for Ryan to overcome. However, the positioning is very good by Ryan, but the throw and strong hands of Kelce are difficult to beat.

This slot vertical by Landry is well executed with Mayfield, but Ryan is able to stay stride for stride with Landry and is in a good position to make a play. Landry must be applauded for his ability to time the back shoulder catch, as should Mayfield for the throw itself. But again, solid position from Ryan.

Bad looks

Ryan rarely looks lost in coverage, but no one is perfect.

This is a miscommunication against a bunch formation that is tight. The Raiders break out in several different directions and Ryan releases outside with the receiver on the line of scrimmage, but it seems like there was some sort of confusion. For whatever reason, Ryan comes off the receiver releasing outside and no one picks him up, leading to an easy touchdown. The blame can’t lay entirely at the feet of Ryan. There’s seems to be a defensive flop that could have been collective, but it’s still not a great look.

Ryan seems to be very aware in zone coverage, but he’s caught looking a bit on the double deep horizontal cross (Ryan is the apex defender at the bottom of your screen). Ryan flows with the play-side receiver and doesn’t really account for the back-side crosser. Jackson is able to find the soft spot right outside of Ryan’s zone. It’s not a huge detriment to Ryan’s game, and most of the time he excelled in this area, but it’s something to bring to light.

Another tight bunch for Ryan, and he’s tasked to cover tight end Darren Waller (83) as he releases on a deep cross. Ryan attempts to jam Waller but was not effective and Waller was able to get inside of Ryan and use his speed to put the cornerback into a bad position. Ryan was caught scrambling and struggling to keep up with the athletic tight end.

Final thoughts

Ryan will be a valuable piece to the 2020 New York Giants’ defense. The loss of Xavier McKinney will still be felt, but Ryan cvould start as the second cornerback, opposite of James Bradberry, while also having the upside to be the best nickel corner on the team, if the Giants do add a player like Prince Amukamara, or if a player currently on the Giants’ roster steps up and wins the second corner job. Ryan can also assist Patrick Graham in other versatile ways near the box, as a blitzer, and as a defensive back that can play man coverage against running backs, tight ends, or receivers. His presence, depending on the implementation and where he plays, can help the Giants’ safeties still be utilized creatively in the absence of McKinney. Ryan is an excellent addition for New York and it was desperately needed.