The Tennessee Titans’ magical playoff run was fun to watch. Everyone loves the underdog—unless, of course, your team is the one bested by one. When the Titans took down both the mighty dynasty of Brady and Belichick in New England, then the reigning MVP in Lamar Jackson in consecutive weeks last postseason, it was beautiful chaos throughout the league.
As just a 9-7 team that didn’t even win their own division, the Titans were able to accomplish this playoff feat thanks to some roster heroes. Running back Derrick Henry led the league in rushing—in total yards, scores and efficiency—and that certainly helped their cause as a smashmouth football team. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill being able to come in for the struggling Marcus Mariota and turn things around as quickly as he did after the team’s 2-4 start was very impressive.
On the defensive side of the ball, Tennessee saw top-tier play from players like Kevin Byard and Rashaan Evans, while guys like Adoree’ Jackson, Harold Landry, and Jeffery Simmons took big steps forward in their roles, too. But there was another player on defense who had a career year in 2019 whose presence on the team contributed heavily in their run to the AFC Championship Game.
That player was defensive back Logan Ryan.
In 16 games played and 16 games starting, Ryan recorded 113 tackles, 4.5 sacks, four tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, 18 passes defended, and four interceptions. For cornerbacks, he had the most tackles in the NFL (fifth most for all defensive backs), the most sacks (second most for all defensive backs), the most forced fumbles, was third in passes defended, and was tied for third in interceptions.
And yet this man did not receive a single vote for Defensive Player of the Year. Now, he was never going to win the award, but not even a vote?
It gets worse. Not only was Ryan overlooked for the top defensive award, he wasn’t even voted to the Pro Bowl, or given First-Team or Second-Team All-Pro honors.
Unfortunately, we’re not done with the disrespect, either. Because this past offseason, as an unrestricted free agent, the Titans didn’t even offer Ryan a contract to return. And to bring it all home, he still remains unsigned.
I’ll never understand it.
To try to re-invent his cause to be signed somewhere, Ryan has recently announced that he will be playing as a safety in 2020. The Titans used Ryan as a versatile defensive back in 2020. Sometimes that was as a slot cornerback, a job I thought he performed very well, but other times it was lined up at safety.
In the play above, Ryan first walked up toward the line of scrimmage as if to give the look of a slot corner, a role he played often. But just before the snap, you can see he flipped his hips to bail, then went smoothly into a backpedal to a two-high safety look. While doing so, he kept his eyes on the quarterback, was able to read the flight path of the ball, and easily get under it.
Playing safety is a lot about disguising what your look is, having the range to then get where you need to be, and playing the ball in the air. All three were on display and looked pretty natural for Ryan there.
Speaking of range…
I wanted to highlight the play above despite Ryan not aligning in a safety spot because it shows off the kind of range he has.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Scotty Miller is no easy task to run stride-for-stride with. Miller reportedly ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at his pro day coming out of Bowling Green a few offseasons ago. For Ryan to be able to keep up with Miller and cover the ground he did while still making an impressive diving pass break up showed big-time safety coverage potential.
Finally, Ryan’s biggest play of the year, his interception of Tom Brady to seal his team’s playoff win in Foxborough, came from him aligning as a safety.
Ryan’s work here wasn’t just impressive because of the magnitude of the pick. If you watch the play, Ryan’s eyes were constantly scanning the field and following that of Brady’s. Once he saw the wide receiver break on his route and Brady begin to wind up, he broke on the ball fast and made cutting in front of it look easy.
Ryan should have been signed long before this, and whether he’s playing strong safety/slot corner as a hybrid or a free safety role in deep coverage, Ryan showed last year that he really has a great understanding for the position.