When the Bucs signed Logan Ryan final week, it appeared a long-standing defensive void had been crammed. Since defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ arrival in Tampa Bay, the Bucs have did not area a high quality slot defender on a week-to-week foundation. Sean Murphy-Bunting, Ross Cockrell, Mike Edwards and ex-Buc M.J. Stewart have tried to man the slot over the previous three seasons. As a rule, the outcomes have been disappointing.
Enter Ryan, who has made a profession out of excelling within the slot. However he didn’t all the time play there. Ryan started his profession as an outdoor cornerback in New England, slowly transferring inside for extra snaps each season. The nine-year professional is likely one of the few defensive backs within the NFL to spend a number of years as a beginning exterior cornerback, slot cornerback and as a free security.
“He [has] some versatility, that’s for certain,” Bucs GM Jason Licht mentioned. “We see him as a security. He has performed slot previously. It’s all the time good to have guys that may transfer round again there. We talked to Logan two years in the past in free company. We had been in talks along with his brokers, and for no matter cause it didn’t work out that yr. So we’ve had loads of discussions over the past couple of years about Logan. It actually wasn’t wanted (this yr). We all know what sort of man he’s and what sort of participant he’s, and we’re excited to have him.”
It’s not completely clear from Licht’s reply how the Bucs plan to make use of Ryan. However saying that they “see him as a security” is telling. And it doesn’t inform a great story. Though Ryan has spent the previous two years at free security in New York, the transition hasn’t gone nicely. With the Giants, Ryan has posted two of his worst protection seasons whereas enjoying deep. Tape-watchers and PFF agree, with one movie guru telling me Ryan “has to play nickel” transferring ahead.
In keeping with PFF, Ryan is barely versatile to a sure level. When requested to play within the publish as a deep security for the Giants, Ryan dissatisfied. A few of that was doubtless the failures of the group round him. However the Giants haven’t had an entire practice wreck secondary. Ryan has merely been enjoying out of place. He doesn’t have the vary or instincts to play free security full-time within the NFL.
Nevertheless it’s a place change Ryan needed again in 2020. Within the remark above, Licht talked about that the Bucs had been unable to signal him throughout that yr’s free company. The reason being as a result of Ryan was attempting to money out yet another time earlier than hitting his 30s. So as to take action, the longtime slot cornerback felt compelled to maneuver to free security, the place the pay was better. The $31 million contract Ryan signed in 2020 proves he was most likely proper. However his play on the sphere merely wasn’t as much as his requirements within the slot.
In keeping with PFF, right here is how Ryan has graded within the slot vs his grading at free security. You can too observe his success in zone as a slot vs his success in man as a slot over the previous three seasons. It needs to be understood that Ryan’s pattern dimension in zone is lots better throughout this time, given his two full years at security.
Per @PFF, right here is how Logan Ryan has graded within the slot vs at free security since 2019 season
And right here is how Ryan has graded in man protection within the slot vs zone protection within the slot since 2019 season
Slot Zone Protection: 69.9
Slot Man Protection: 47.5
— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) March 18, 2022
I’ve watched sufficient of Ryan’s tape to know that his versatility is a energy. Nevertheless it doesn’t come with out limitations. Ryan isn’t a full-time free security, and he’s by no means been a full-time sturdy security. He’s 31 years outdated. Whereas Ryan is a good run defender and tackler, asking him to fill Jordan Whitehead’s field security function appears bold. On the identical time, transferring Antoine Winfield to sturdy security and having Ryan play within the publish doesn’t appear clever both.
Proper now, the Bucs have one security who can transfer everywhere in the protection and stay efficient: Winfield. Mike Edwards is extra of a free security, with the power to step into the slot for sure matchups. And Ryan is the alternative of Edwards, a slot nook who can play deep in a pinch. Maybe behind considered one of Bowles’ well-known blitzes. But when the Bucs attempt to ask him to play security full-time, the outcomes may not be fairly.
The numbers and the tape each inform the identical story. Ryan is at his finest enjoying predominantly within the slot of a zone heavy scheme. It simply so occurs, the Bucs run a zone-heavy scheme and so they want a slot cornerback! What are the chances? Nonetheless, it appears Tampa Bay may take into account Ryan the group’s new sturdy security, which might be curious to say the least. It will additionally maintain Murphy-Bunting within the slot, the place he has struggled throughout his profession.
Licht made a powerful signing in getting Ryan for affordable. But when he isn’t utilized in his finest place, the outcomes on the sphere could not finest characterize the veteran defender’s talent set.