As he enters his ninth season in the NFL, New York Giants safety Logan Ryan has no shortage of experience.
He is a two-time Super Bowl champion and made a major adjustment upon joining the Giants just 10 days before the start of the regular season last year: switching from cornerback to safety. Ryan started 13 games at safety and finished second on the team in tackles with 92 (67 solo), one sack, one interception, nine passes defended, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Yet despite the many seasons of professional football played, Ryan knows that there is always room to grow. For that reason, Ryan contacted players from the Giants’ past: Antrel Rolle, Jason Sehorn and Corey Webster.
“I reached out to those guys and said, ‘Hey, I want to pick your brain and be great like you. I respect what you have done in the past. Can you give me anything?’”
Ryan’s desire to learn and improve at this point in his career is, by itself, noteworthy. But the ripple effects of that initiative could prove to be even more significant. At 30 years old, Ryan is the oldest player in a cornerback room that includes James Bradberry (27), newly-acquired Adoree’ Jackson (25), Isaac Yiadom (25) Darnay Holmes (22) and Xavier McKinney (21). Ryan’s actions therefore have implications on and off the football field. By reaching out to former Giants greats, Ryan is not only seeking advice that will help him improve individually, but he is modeling behavior for the secondary as a whole.
This is important because the Giants’ secondary is poised to make a strong comeback in 2021. Pro Football Focus ranked the New York secondary at No. 27 overall heading into last season. This season, PFF ranked the Giants at No. 7. In two seasons, the Giants have gone from starting Janoris Jenkins and a combination of B.W. Webb and Eli Apple at outside cornerback to a projected duo of Bradberry and Jackson. Bradberry’s 79.9 coverage grade in 2020 was ranked seventh among qualifying cornerbacks and Jackson’s 82.5 mark in 2019 - his last full season of action - ranked sixth.
There is the potential for defensive coordinator Patrick Graham to lead this secondary to a breakout season next year. But the leadership of Ryan along the way will be just as important.
“All those guys were so honored and willing and eager to be a part of our secondary and they were willing and eager to help out,” Ryan said of Rolle, Sehorn and Webster. “They were thankful that I reached out to try to build the bridge between the current secondary and former greats. I want to be like them and lead those units and I asked them personally how to be a better leader and a player.”
Rolle, Sehorn and Webster were leaders during their time with the Giants. Rolle never missed a start in his five seasons in New York and was a vocal member of the Super Bowl XLVI team. Webster won two Super Bowls with the Giants and Sehorn played in more than 100 games, while also helping to guide the franchise to a Super Bowl appearance.
Despite his ample NFL experience, Ryan understands that compared to these three former Giants, he has a lot to learn.
“I’m an empty cup,” Ryan said. “They are filling it up, and I just try to relate that and try to teach the history of the franchise to the young guys so we know that our standard is to be one of those secondary's to make the organization and the fan base proud.”
If Ryan is an empty cup, what does that make everyone else?
For Ryan, the answer is simple. They are a team.
It is for this reason that Ryan organized an outing for all of the cornerbacks down in Florida this offseason.
“I really just wanted to bring the guys down and just have some time to ourselves,” Ryan said. “It was tough last year, joining the team so late and not really having an opportunity to bond with the guys.
“So I just think those guys got to see how I work day-to-day, and we got to talk a lot about how we would play things and we actually had a boating trip and I think Bradberry said he didn’t catch any fish, okay, but we talked a lot about coverage and Bradberry talked about how he was covering a guy, and really it was cool sharing stories how we covered guys in the league, so it was a great opportunity.”
Ryan also admitted that he does not relate as easily anymore to the 21-year-olds in the league. A gathering like the one he hosted in Florida therefore helped to break down some barriers.
“The guys we have, they really want to learn and be coached and they really ask the questions,” Ryan said. “It’s very different from what you hear about the modern day athlete and how they want to learn. They want to learn and see the process of what it takes to put together a nine or ten-year career. I was really inspired by just the bonding that took place. It’s going to be special and it’s going to pay off.”
While Ryan is still in the process of strengthening some of his relationships with members of the secondary, he does have a friendship with Jackson as the two played together in Tennessee.
“He’s super talented and I’m just a believer in him because I see how hard he works day-to-day,” Ryan said. “When he came from USC as a junior, he was the youngest kid in the league. We like playing together and we have a good bond and it definitely makes it more productive to have a corner and safety who are really close and understand how each other thinks a little bit out there on the field.”
Under the guidance of Graham, Ryan said that he believes the strengths of each player on the secondary will be fleshed out and embraced. His own personal experience is proof of that.
“I wasn’t here at this time last year and I wasn’t playing safety at this time last year,” Ryan said. “I am light years ahead personally. I don’t think you hit the ground running. You hit it learning. It’s definitely that time of the year.”
During his media session, Ryan, a team leader, was asked about the kind of message he would give not only to the secondary group but to the team as a whole.
“The message is it’s a new year,” Ryan said. “I care about coming out and executing and running our defense better and running our offense better. We definitely got some more horses in the stable this year as you know, but it’s a team sport...I don’t play this game to have losing records and try to get one game better than 6-10. We have to take it one step at a time and the message is to build a foundation and embrace it.”