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Logan Ryan working toward bigger role in Patriots secondary

Working out at Shutdown U in Phoenix can be humbling. Will Sullivan admits as much. “The one thing I constantly tell people, this environment isn’t for everybody,” he said. “This is a place where you get called out.”

But if you’re willing to listen, work on your craft and put in the effort, you’ll reap the benefits. You don’t have to look far to see the evidence. Sullivan is best known as being Darrelle Revis' offseason cornerback coach. He still works with the All-Pro today, but also helps out a slew of NFL defensive backs.
Among those already in Arizona trying to get better is Logan Ryan. Like Revis, the Patriots’ 2013 third-round pick came to Sullivan before he entered the NFL and has been there every spring since. Like last offseason, multiple Patriots players are expected to join Ryan in Phoenix. Tavon Wilson arrived on Monday, and Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon are scheduled to fly in next week.
Ryan has been in Arizona for the last month. Ryan enters his third season with the Patriots at a time when the cornerback position is wide-open after the departure of Revis and Brandon Browner. Sullivan said that Ryan should be ready for the competition come this spring’s organized team activities and minicamp.
At this point, it’s Sullivan’s job to correct errors in Ryan's technique.
“In the spring, it’s actually going over the mistakes that were made in the season. So, my time spent right now is watching a ton of film with Logan,” Sullivan said. “Getting on the board and making sure there’s an understanding of things he can do differently based upon the receivers he’s going against. Right now, we’re hashing out the mistakes from the 2014 season. What we’re looking for are any kind of reoccurring issues he’s having in his stance and footwork. Or even in his overall understanding in his game, and we try to correct those things.
“I can’t go too far into those things. I’ll just say this, the mistakes that were made on the field, everybody was able to see them. My job is to make sure the issues that we had in 2014 aren't issues in 2015.”
Ryan appeared in all 16 games for the Patriots last season and finished with two interceptions (he had five in his rookie season of 2013). Ryan’s sophomore campaign was up-and-down. He flashed potential, but also showed several areas where he needs to improve.
According to ProFootballFocus, Ryan gave up 33 catches on 56 targets for 471 yards and a touchdown. Quarterbacks completed 58.9 percent of their passes on Ryan. Among the Patriots' other cornerbacks, only Alfonzo Dennard allowed a higher completion percentage (68.2 percent). Revis (51.9), Kyle Arrington (55.6), Malcolm Butler (55.6) and Browner (57.4) all allowed lower completion percentages.Ryan did finish the season strong. In the playoffs, quarterbacks targeted him more than any other cornerback on the Patriots. Ryan only gave up completions on only 6 of the 14 passes thrown his way (42.9 percent), which was second on the Patriots behind Butler’s 33.3 percent catch rate.

The progression of a player like Ryan will be important for the Patriots.
Sullivan said he’s already noticed a difference with Ryan this offseason. One thing he’s noticed is that other players have started to gravitate toward Ryan.
“If there’s anything that’s been different it’s just his maturity. He continues to mature with the game," Sullivan said. "It’s great. I’ve got about three different groups of defensive backs, and some of the best defensive backs in the NFL. I don’t care how long somebody’s been in the game, starts or what it may be, what you find them doing is going over to talk to Logan.
“Logan does a great job of understanding the concepts that I teach. Guys look at him and he’s really taken on that role. It doesn’t matter how young he is, I see him now in his ability to step up and take charge. That’s something that I really like to see from younger defensive backs. The big thing I’ve seen is his maturity and his ability to handle being a leader.”
Ryan is not a speed player – he ran a 4.56 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Instead, he focuses on technique.
“I’d say first off, very intelligent football player,” Sullivan said. “I’ve been doing this for a while now. I’d say in the last 11 years, he’s right up there with some of the brightest defensive backs that I’ve ever had the opportunity to train. I’ve trained hundreds. I love his approach to the game. Very cerebral-type guy. Understands his strengths. He understands his weaknesses and really knows how to play within the complexity of the defense. You can kind of put Logan anywhere and he produces.
“Athletically, he’s gotten better and better every single year with his technique. Obviously that’s seen on the field. I really like the fact that he’s somebody you can throw in there at any point in the game, whether he’s a starting No. 2 or nickel. You’re going to get somebody who has a good balance of playing the ball and being able to come up on the run as well.”
Sullivan expects Ryan to have a long NFL career. Given the Patriots' history of cornerback draft picks quickly flaming out, it’s certain they would take that.“Potential-wise, I really don’t know,” Sullivan said. “When you look at the potential, obviously you look at his past Combine numbers and everybody in the NFL knows, he’s not the greatest athlete in the world. It’s not like he’s out there running 4.2’s. He’s a good athlete, don’t get me wrong. But the big thing for him is that he relies so much on his technique.

“When you look at potential, I know he has potential that no matter what scheme you put him in – man or zone – he’ll definitely be someone who is around the league for a long time.”



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Neil S. Schwartz

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