The New England Patriots are searching for their starting cornerbacks, but it seems as if there's a clear front runner for one of the roles. Veteran Bradley Fletcher, third-year Logan Ryan, and sophomore Malcolm Butler have all been tagged as the top options, but it's Ryan who has separated himself from the pack.
The cornerback known as "Instant Offense" played the third most snaps of the position group in 2014, behind only the starters Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, and ahead of Kyle Arrington and Alfonzo Dennard. Ryan is the only player still on the roster.
Throughout the reported team activities, Ryan has remained the constant with the starting secondary. Some days it's Fletcher with the first team, and this past week has seen some Butler (although I wouldn't be surprised if Butler was presented with the first team on media day as a symbolic reinforcement that everyone should take note that his chances to make the team have not been affected). Ryan has reportedly had a strong offseason and has been active around the football.
Ryan's sophomore year came across as a little bit of a disappointment after a strong rookie season and it concluded with his benching in the Super Bowl. He couldn't hold on to the starting role while Browner was suspended, with Dennard getting heavy snaps for the final two games before Browner's return. Once Dennard disappeared off the face of the earth, Ryan and Arrington split time as the third cornerback on the depth chart, with Arrington outsnapping Ryan after the bye week (and Arrington didn't play for the final two games of the regular season due to injury).
Ryan knows that he has a great opportunity for 2015 and he can't afford to play at a rotational level and needs to show improvement every time he takes the field.
"I’m just trying to build off where I left last year," Ryan said. "I think last year I was a little better off than I was as a rookie. So I’m just trying to keep making those strides."
He also knows that the coaches will value consistency at the position, more than anything else, especially as he enters his third year.
"[I need to improve on] technique and consistency," Ryan stated (transcribed by the Herald). "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."
As the roster currently stands, Ryan is a starter by default more than anything else. He needs to get past his lackluster sophomore season to find the play-making ability he flashed as a rookie. Ryan is currently on top of the roster fight with Butler and Fletcher, but he needs to use the rest of the offseason to prove that he deserves to be the starter.
He's off to a good start.