Entering his 10th NFL season, defensive back Logan Ryan has seen the highest of highs and the lowest of lows while wearing a variety of helmets.
He’s experienced Super Bowl glory with the New England Patriots as a starting outside corner and brutal mediocrity with the New York Giants as more of a safety, with some modest success as a Tennessee Titans’ slot corner sandwiched in the middle.
On Wednesday afternoon, Ryan spoke about the next step in his journey as a versatile chess piece in Tampa’s defense as he faced down some his former Tennessee teammates during joint practices between the two teams in Nashville, Tenn.
“In past stops, I’ve played every snap of defense, so I’ve been used – it just depends on what position,” Ryan said. “My job and goal is to be ready to play every snap. Wherever they have me, they have me. [I want] to be productive, as well.
“Look, I have a lot of great players around me on this team – a lot of great linebackers, a lot of great pass rushers, a lot of great DBs. [There are] Pro Bowlers at every level, so my job is to kind of facilitate, set the guys up and allow them to make plays and be successful.”
Ryan’s gradual evolution as a player is a testament to his work ethic and team-oriented attitude, as he aims to set both himself and his team up for success. Such an ethos might remind Buccaneers fans, to a certain degree, of franchise great Ronde Barber. Throughout his illustrious, future Hall of Fame career that spanned 16 seasons, Barber revolutionized the nickelback position, played outside, and even excelled as a free safety in his final go-around at age 37.
With Barber still plenty involved with the team and frequently attending practices, Ryan has made it a point to get feedback whenever possible.
While expecting Ryan to be that level of difference-maker is a tad farfetched, the 31-year-old is in good shape as he steadily learns the defense and deepens the team’s safety and slot rotation. In such a diverse scheme like the one Todd Bowles runs, patience will be key.
“I think it’s a complex system and I’m learning multiple positions, so I think I have a good idea of where they want me to be [and] how to get lined up,” Ryan said. “I’m a communicator in the defense, so I feel comfortable and confident to line other people up. I think I know it pretty well, so now it’s just finding different ways of knowing how to do my job and putting sauce on it, which makes me, me. Now I’m at the sauce stage and I’m trying to get better week by week. There are a lot of practices left until the regular season, so I’m just trying to progress in the right way.”
His point about communication is particularly important to note when you consider the Buccaneers’ heartbreaking loss to the eventual champion Los Angeles Rams in the 2022 Divisional Round. On one of the final plays of the game, with the Bucs having just completed a vicious comeback to tie the game at 27, a coverage bust on a zero blitz left Cooper Kupp wide open. The ensuing reception guaranteed a chip shot field goal that ended Tampa’s repeat hopes.
It wasn’t the only time the Bucs struggled with communication in the secondary last season. If it goes according to plan, Ryan should galvanize a unit that has, for the most part, generally been trending upward throughout the years.
“It’s as talented of a group as I have been on for sure,” he said. “We are really coached hard and we are coached well.”
He went on to praise the coaching staff for being a relative rarity in the NFL.
“I’ve said for years, I don’t think the NFL has the best teachers. There is not enough time – the turnover is too quick [and] the rosters are too much. They don’t teach, they replace. I think that [safeties coach Nick] Rapone, especially, he is one of the best coaches I’ve ever had and one of the best teachers I’ve ever had in terms of teaching everybody.
“Even the last man on the depth chart is being taught up and being held accountable. He coached Bowles in college at safety, and now I’m playing for Coach Bowles at safety. I’m kind of learning from his Jedi Master. I’m happy to be taught like that and to be able to pick something up for my game.”
As the Buccaneers evolve to be even more versatile and tight-knit on defense, how good they can be this season will lean heavily on not just Ryan and Co., but the coaches and the rest of the roster all coming together to be one consistent, adaptable unit. To see glowing reviews from all parties at this point in training camp is always encouraging, but they’ll soon have to prove it as Week 1 draws closer.