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Patriots CB Logan Ryan ready to regain his old work load

November 10, 2016 GMT

FOXBORO — The Patriots have conspicuously reduced Logan Ryan’s snaps over the past two games, but there’s reason to believe that won’t continue over the long haul.

Perhaps that’s why the fourth-year cornerback is so focused on the second half of the regular season.

“I’m excited for the next eight games and beyond,” Ryan said when asked to evaluate his performance through two months. “I’ll leave it at that. I think I have a lot more left to do.”

Ryan was on the field for 31-of-73 snaps (42.5 percent) in Week 7 against the Steelers and 51-of-77 snaps (66.2 percent) in Week?8 against the Bills. So after playing 95.6 percent of the defensive snaps from Weeks 1-6, Ryan’s playing time plummeted to 54.7 percent in the last two games.

To look at it another way, Ryan missed 18 total snaps in the Patriots’ first six games, but he sat out more than that in each of the last two outings. And to stretch it back even further, Ryan missed one total snap over the final 14 games in 2015, including the playoffs.

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That’s why, when he was relegated to the sideline for more than three times as many snaps over the last two weeks as the previous 20, it’s fair to wonder what might be happening.

“I’m just focused on the next week,” Ryan said. “Whatever comes, comes. I’m going to try to do it to the best of my ability for whatever that may be, but I know I’m focused on being a great teammate, being a great player, and I’m trying to help this defense play good football and do a better job of getting turnovers.

“It’s part of the process. It’s part of being a team player. We’re going to switch up a bunch of things always. We’ve always done that with playing a whole bunch of faces, and I think that helps us in the long run with knowing where we’re trying to get.

“I think I’m a guy who is capable of doing a little bit of everything.”

So it might not have had anything to do with performance at all. It’s certainly possible the Pats wanted to evaluate cornerback Eric Rowe against Steelers backup quarterback Landry Jones and the Bills, who deployed a ragtag assembly of receivers behind Robert Woods. After all, Bill Belichick has to know what he’s got on the depth chart in case either Ryan or Malcolm Butler goes down.

Remember, Rowe joined the Pats in a Week 1 trade with the Eagles and missed five games while catching up to speed and rehabbing an ankle injury, so Belichick’s staff didn’t have a lot of firsthand knowledge on him. If it ever comes down to Rowe, Cyrus Jones, Justin Coleman or Jonathan Jones in a crunch-time situation, the Patriots have to know which corner is best suited for certain roles.

Ryan has been heavily leaned upon by the Patriots this season, so it’s hard to believe that responsibility would just evaporate. He primarily shadowed Larry Fitzgerald in Week 1, DeAndre Hopkins in Week 3, Woods in Week 4, Terrelle Pryor in Week 5 and A.J. Green in Week 6.

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But Rowe tapped in for the Green responsibilities late against the Bengals and took on more work against the Steelers and Bills, which sparked some curiosity over Ryan’s role.

Quarterbacks this season are 33-of-52 for 403 yards and two touchdowns when targeting Ryan, who has two pass breakups, so his coverage stats aren’t as impressive as they were in 2015. But considering the quality of his assignments, it partly explains the numbers.

Meanwhile, Rowe had a nice debut in limited work against Green, but Jones and Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor were 7-of-13 for 80 yards and a touchdown against Rowe, who was flagged three times in Week 8, including twice for pass interference. So Rowe endured his own growing pains.

Whatever the reason for Ryan’s restricted role, he was too trusted for too long of a stretch to believe it was a long-term demotion. He might even be back in the spotlight Sunday night against the Seahawks.

“Whatever works and whatever helps us to get wins, we’re going to continue to do it,” Ryan said. “The more that guys play, the more it’s going to continue to help us for sure. I know I’m ready to be out there when my number is called, and I’m going to do a good job of that.”