EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants cornerbacks received a boost when Logan Ryan agreed to terms on Monday. Or, is it their safeties? Maybe defensive backs is the best way to characterize how the former Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots player will fit with his new team.
Ryan, 29, is going to be used all over the place in the Giants' defense. A little bit in the slot. Some at safety, both in the box and deep. Potentially on the perimeter as a cornerback and even as a blitzer off the edge.
"He's going to play a variety of roles for us, so if I gave you one answer right there, I'd be lying," Giants coach Joe Judge said. "Logan, one of his strengths really is versatility. ... Really, having a guy like that allows you to play other guys in fewer positions because he can handle a lot of the multiples while these guys are learning the system."
It's similar to the role the Giants had planned for rookie safety Xavier McKinney before he suffered a foot injury that required surgery. McKinney probably wouldn't have been a Week 1 starter, but he would have played plenty in that safety/nickel/slot/cornerback role.
"I'm very happy with our safety group. Our safeties are strong," general manager Dave Gettleman said. "Unfortunately, [McKinney] got hurt, but we fixed that with Logan."
Ryan, who grew up in New Jersey and attended Rutgers, had been a cornerback playing on the perimeter most of his career with the Patriots. But last season in Tennessee was a little different.
According NFL Next Gen Stats, he played 22% of his snaps on the outside as a traditional cornerback, 58% in the slot, 15% as a linebacker and 4% as a safety.
That seems to be the initial plan with the Giants. Use Ryan in a nickel role out of the slot or as a blitzer off the edge. He had a career-best 4.5 sacks last season for the Titans and finished tied for fourth in the NFL with 12 pass breakups.
Clearly, Ryan provides a much-needed talent infusion into a depleted defensive backfield. McKinney is injured, 2019 first-round cornerback DeAndre Baker is dealing with legal troubles and cornerback Sam Beal opted out of the season. The Giants would have been in serious trouble without adding Ryan.
"Nate Ebner, who is obviously on our team right now, talks really high of [Ryan]. So I'm really excited for him to get here and work with him," Giants starting middle linebacker Blake Martinez said. "He's a player that is non-stop motor. Someone that is versatile and can do a lot of things."
The move makes sense on so many levels. Ryan knows Judge well from their time together in New England and has the coach's trust. He can jump into a scheme he's familiar with and help Judge mold the culture the Giants are trying to build.
Ryan is coming from Tennessee, where he played under Mike Vrabel, another disciple of Patriots coach Bill Belichick. The transition should be rather seamless.
Ryan also provides the Giants some insurance. While he might not be the ideal solution as the Giants' No. 2 cornerback on the outside, at least he's an option should Corey Ballentine's struggles continue. Ballentine has had a rough camp. At practice on Tuesday, he was beaten repeatedly and rather easily by Darius Slayton on the outside. He's been getting beat, losing his balance and falling to the ground too often this summer.
Ballentine, a sixth-round pick last year, has been trying to earn the coaches' trust.
"I've seen a lot of improvement. He's obviously an athletic guy. He has good top speed that can really run with anybody on the field," Judge said before the practice. "It's really patience within the technique. I've seen a lot of improvement with him as far as trusting his speed, trusting the technique, not overreacting at the top of the route.
"Some of the things we ask these guys to do, especially early in camp, are foreign to them. It takes a little bit of time to play the technique to where we're demanding to, and I've seen daily improvement from Corey."
If it's not enough, Ryan has experienced some success throughout his career on the outside. The Giants don't have anyone aside from James Bradberry with that on their résumé. They are paper thin at the position with undrafted rookie Jarren Williams and former XFL standout Dravon Askew-Henry among the other options.
So the Giants will likely continue to scour the waiver wire, cuts and free agents throughout the weekend. Another veteran cornerback (Prince Amukamara?) could be in the cards.
Or, maybe defensive back would be a better way to phrase it.