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Logan Ryan quietly growing in importance to Patriots

Cornerback Logan Ryan’s importance over the last two seasons shouldn’t be dismissed. Neither should his future with the Patriots.

There’s been a bright spotlight levied upon impending free agents Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Malcolm Butler (restricted) and Jabaal Sheard, which dimmed the focus on Ryan and several others.

But given Ryan’s commitment to the defensive process, and an admirable performance level against some of the league’s best wide receivers, there are more than enough reasons to believe the Patriots will work to keep him under contract for the foreseeable future.

“He is one of the smartest players we’ve got on defense,” safety Devin McCourty said. “When the game plan switches up, we put a lot of pressure on him to make sure everybody is aligned in the right place. . . . He studies film like no other, and it shows with how productive he has been and how productive he has made the defense.”

Ryan is a next-level film junkie, and it’s a major reason for his success.

Last season Ryan limited Texans wideout DeAndre Hopkins to two catches for 12 yards before an insignificant late-game 40-yarder. Ryan said he knew every route Hopkins would run before the play even got started.

That isn’t a unique example, either. Since last season when the Patriots planted Ryan on one receiver, he has devoted his life to that singular assignment.

“I’ve grown to have the confidence and fall in love with the idea of having one guy all day and being able to compete and beat him throughout the day,” Ryan said. “I fell in love with the process, fell in love with the preparation of watching film. I just think it’s knowing I want to win the battle throughout the week so when I go out there on game day, it’s already done. It’s just executing.”

Ryan’s film studies have evolved over the past year since the birth of his daughter, Avery. Last season, there were a lot of late-night sessions with her on his lap and his iPad in his free hand. But now that she is running all over the place, Ryan does his work at Gillette Stadium, where he tries to beat the sun to work and stay as late as necessary.

He also works the scout-team receivers, requesting their routes and techniques to line up with his weekly opponent.

Ryan gave credit to rookie receiver Malcolm Mitchell for giving him the right look on a steady basis.

“I know I’m very specific with whatever scout receiver is out there on, ‘Hey, what’s your split. Where are you at? He is going to run it like this. He is going to run it like that.’ They’ve done a great job of changing how they play each week because every receiver is different,” Ryan said.

Ryan’s numbers haven’t been perfect this season, but consider the competition. Quarterbacks Carson Palmer, Ryan Tannehill and Brock Osweiler were a combined 16-for-25 for 190 yards and two touchdowns when targeting Ryan, who has two pass breakups.

But he was beaten by a series of remarkable catches by the Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald (two touchdowns) and the Texans’ Hopkins, and everyone in the Patriots’ locker room basically just laughed off some of the great plays receivers made on him, including Ryan himself.

“Sometimes when a pitcher throws the right pitch, they hit it anyway,” Ryan said. “If they make a great play, which they’re going to make when you stick to great receivers, I feel it’s my duty to go out there and play it the exact same way and next time make a great play as well, which I feel I’m capable of. Those guys aren’t just average receivers. That’s for a reason. They’re accustomed to doing that.

“That just raises my game. When guys do that, I’ve just got to smile and keep it going. I’m a fan of the game as well. I’ll look back at it like, ‘I might have been mad in the moment, but that was a great play.’ ”

The Patriots have a projected $60 million in cap space for 2017, so they’ve got the money to retain Ryan without saying sayonara to any of their marquee free agents. Don’t be overly shocked if the Patriots fork over something along the lines of a four-year, $24 million deal to keep him around.

Ryan has flown under the radar for much of his career, but the Pats consistently require a lot from Ryan, who meets those expectations.

“I view myself to make an impact wherever I’m at,” Ryan said. “Some of it gets attention. Some of it doesn’t. That’s cool with me as long as we keep winning, keep it rolling and keep on having fun.”



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Neil S. Schwartz

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Jonathan Feinsod

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