If you ask any defender on the New England Patriots about the Atlanta Falcons skill players, you’ll hear a similar response: “They can line up anywhere.” Whether you’re talking about wide receivers, tight ends, or running backs, every single Falcons skill play can line up all over the formations.
And that’s perfect for Patriots CB Logan Ryan, who has developed into a rare cornerback that can play both in the slot and on the sideline.
“There’s a difference,” Ryan said about playing inside versus outside. “More space on the inside, it’s hard to take away everything because there’s a lot more space. There’s a lot more other players around you so could be rubbed off a pick a little more than on the outside where you know where your sideline’s at, you know kind of where your help’s at, you’re kind of more isolated. So I think they’re both challenging in their own right, but for different ways.”
Slot corners need to be agile and aware and also must be strong tacklers in the run game. Sideline corners must have the speed and ball skills to take away the sideline and deep passes. Falcons WR Mohamed Sanu, who is expected to face Ryan for most of the game, spends time both in the slot and on the sideline and has scored in three straight games.
Ryan believes he is up to the task after overcoming a slow start to the year. Ryan underwent a shoulder surgery this offseason and seemed to recover and round into form after the Patriots bye week, when he was moved into the slot.
“I just continue to believe in myself, continue to do what got me here,” Ryan said. “I came into the league playing a lot of slot my rookie year; I played both my second year; my third year I kind of, from need, went to the outside, had success. This year, started outside, from need went inside. So I think I’m the guy always went with where the team needed me to go.
“I pride myself in being a defensive football player who is able to do multiple things well, cover and tackle, and force turnovers. I’m able to do it, able to shine in different ways and I think that’s really what I was meant to do and I really try to take something that’s challenging for some and try and master it, or be good at it. I think the more you can do, the harder [it is] to take you off the field. That’s what Bill says. So I’m trying to show, I can stay on the field as many ways I can, bring more to the table.”
Ryan could be playing the final game of his Patriots career as he is set to enter free agency as one of the premier cornerback options on the market. Ryan says that he’s not letting that opportunity distract him from the upcoming Super Bowl.
“This place does a good job keeping you in the moment,” Ryan said. “I got a big opportunity ahead of me, you know, free agency is not going to help me play good or bad in the Super Bowl, so I’m just focused on this. Focused on this game, my opponent. It’s going to be an extremely great one. The best we’ve seen. So I just think all my focus is on this. I’m a firm believer in whatever happens, happens.”
Ryan has honed his skills over four seasons in the league and his versatility has been crucial to the Patriots defensive success this year. He has one more game to reassert his worth.