Tag Archives: Training camp

2017 Patriots Training Camp First Day Thoughts and Observations

The Super Bowl champion New England Patriots kicked off training camp today in front of a massive crowd of fans that showed up to welcome back their beloved team. Quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady was one of the first on the field for the Patriots and was welcomed by a loud uproar of screams and chants from the fans. Fans were also excited to see the return of tight end Rob Gronkowski, who missed the second half of the regular season and the playoffs after undergoing back surgery during the season.

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With the first few days of camp being non-contact the team went through a lot of individual position drills, as well as 7-on-7s, 11-on-11s and special teams drills. The team started off with kickoff and kickoff returns, where Danny Amendola, Dion Lewis, and Cyrus Jones were fielding and receiving kicks. Cyrus Jones picked up the same spot he ended last season, dropping one of his first few attempts catching the kickoff and then fielded everyone cleanly after that. If Jones continues to have issues on special teams his job and roster spot could be in jeopardy.

 

All three quarterbacks participated in 7-on7 and 11-on-11 drills with Tom Brady primarily working with the first team offense, Jimmy Garoppolo working with all three units and Jacoby Brissett working with the third team offense and some snaps with the second team offense. Brady looked like his normal self; spreading the ball around to his many offensive weapons, connecting with offseason addition Brandin Cooks several times deep down the sideline. During these drills Rob Gronkowski looked like he was completely healthy and happy to be back on the field and was even trying to create contact with defenders and did his famous “Gronk Spike” after catching a pass in the end zone from Brady. Jimmy Garoppolo was inconsistent during these scrimmages, making some good passes including a deep ball to tight end Dwayne Allen. Garoppolo also made some bad passes and decisions, including back to back interceptions in the end zone by Eric Rowe and Jordan Richards. Jacoby Brissett looked good with the third team offense and had a good chemistry with second year receiver Devin Lucien, who made a great catch on a back shoulder fade in the back of the end zone, and undrafted rookie Austin Carr. Brissett showed improvement on the quickness of his decision making and getting rid of the ball, both of which were areas he struggled in last year.

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Austin Carr is someone who stood out to me and had a great practice working as a slot receiver with the third team offense and was constantly finding a way to get open. Carr was a Biletnikoff award finalist during his senior season in 2016 and led the Big Ten in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns before going undrafted in the 2017 NFL Draft. With the Patriots depth at receiver it will be tough for him to earn a spot on the final 53-man roster and would be a great addition to the teams practice squad and continue to learn from slot receivers like Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, if he is not signed by another team.

 

Defensively the cornerback duo of Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore looked very sharp. Early on in the beginning of drills Butler had played great coverage on Brandin Cooks and had a pass breakup in the end zone on cooks. One area of question this offseason was who is going to be the Patriots slot and nickel corner, and on the first day of camp that went to Jonathan Jones. Jones was a primary special teams player last season who played some slot corner on defense and appears as of now to be the team’s starting slot corner, with Butler and Gilmore on the outside, as well as Eric Rowe who can line up on the outside or on the inside against some tight ends because of his size.

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There were several players who did not attend of participate in todays practice including; Dont’a Hightower and Alan Branch who were both placed on the PUP list earlier this week, as well as Rob Ninkovich, Kony Ealy and Joe Cardona. According to Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston Cardona’s absence is due to a commitment that Cardona has with the Navy. The absences of Ealy and Ninkovich have yet to be given a reason for. Ninkovich has been a name that has been discussed this offseason as a potential surprise cut or someone who will not make the final 53-man roster and his absence could be related to possible thoughts of retirement as he is set to enter his 12th year in the league.

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The Patriots will continue to practice over the weekend with only partial contact before moving to full padded practices next week. Patriots football is back and ready to defend their title and be on the quest for their sixth Super Bowl championship.

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Patriots Training Camp Preview: Things To Watch For

It’s been a long six months but what we’ve all been waiting for is almost finally here with the Patriots set to open Training Camp Wednesday, with the first practice open to the public on Thursday. Here are some things I will be watching for once the Patriots kick off training camp.

 

Quarterback Reps

Maybe the most obvious thing that will be mentioned on this list and for good reason as it will be the most important. As we all know Tom Brady ended his DeflateGate appeal snd will be missing the first four games of the regular season. As part of this suspension brady can not be around the team, practice with the team, be at the stadium, or even have contact with anyone from the team until his suspension is over. This puts the Patriots in a tough position of how they should split first team reps in training camp and preseason games between Brady, Garoppolo and even rookie third round pick Jacoby Brissett. Brady has been the leader of the team the past 15 years and has been playing with the core of the offense with the past three seasons, though he has the chemistry with Gronk, Edelman and Amendola you don’t want him not taking many snaps with these guys in camp then missing the first four games and have him come back where the guys could be out of chemistry and out of sync a little bit. Then you face the problem of having to make sure Garoppolo is ready to play in those first four games and can build up a chemistry with the first team offense. Garoppolo has yet to really play a true meaningful down in the NFL and getting him prepared is the biggest key for the team heading into the regular season. The team even has to mix Jacoby Brissett in for snaps just incase Garoppolo gets injured or isn’t playing well and the team has to make a change during the first four weeks of the season.

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via bostonherald.com

 

D.J. Foster

D.J. Foster is a name that is not known by many, but one people will be hearing a lot about this preseason. Foster is an undrafted rookie free agent out of Arizona State who is listed as a running back, but is more of a receiver than a running back which will help him and was known as more of an offensive weapon for the Sun Devils. It’s no secret that coach Bill Belichick loves versatility in his players and that a receiving back has played a huge role in the teams offense during the Belichick era. Dion Lewis will be starting training camp off on the PUP list which will give Foster even more of an opportunity to show what he can do on the field and fight for his roster spot. With running backs LaGarrette Blount and James White very much fighting for their own spot on the roster, Foster should get many opportunities to prove himself and earn a spot on the teams final roster.

foster patriots
via patriots.com

 

Offensive Line

The Patriots offensive line was absolutely terrible last year, partly due to injury and partly due to all around poor play. Long time offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia even came out of retirement because he couldn’t stand watching his offensive line play so bad anymore. The Patriots made a few offensive line acquisitions this offseason most notably Jonathan Cooper in a trade from Arizona and third round pick Joe Thuney from NC State. Cooper was the seventh overall pick of the first round pick back in 2013 and struggled in Arizona in large part due to injury, as well as the team trying to move him from guard to center. Cooper is known for having a little bit of a mean streak which is something that Dante Scarnecchia loves in his players and something that really all offensive lineman should have. Thuney played tackle during his time at NC State but said he sees himself as more of a guard in the NFL.Even with Thuney being more of a guard than a tackle at the pro level the versatility he can provide is something that the Patriots covet in him. With offensive lineman Shaq Mason, Tre Jackson and Sebastian Vollmer all being placed on the PUP list to start training camp Cooper and Thuney should get a lot of snaps with the first team offense and could very well be the week one starters.

Jonathan Cooper
vis bostonherald.com

 

Edge Rushers

The Patriots traded their top pass rusher this offseason to Arizona for a second round pick and the aforementioned Jonathan Cooper as Jones was entering the final year of his rookie contract and the team was unlikely to sign him after the season. Jamaal Sheard and Rob Ninkovich are locks to make the roster and be starters after both played very well last season. The team also added veteran defensive end Chris Long who was released by the St. Louis Rams this offseason. Long has taken a few steps back the past few seasons from his former Pro Bowl days at the beginning of his career. Long signed a very team friendly deal with New England because he wanted to go to a place where he could not only contribute but more importantly win. If Long can stay healthy and play in a limited role like Jabaal Sheard did last season, Long could have a very good season in New England. The Patriots will also look to second year men Geneo Grissom and Trey Flowers to step up and contribute to the teams pass rush this season. Both Grissom and Flowers looked good in preseason last year but saw very limited playing time during the regular season with Grissom only collecting one sack and Flowers only appearing in one game. Flowers is more of a true pass rusher than Grissom and can’t wait to see how they involve him in the defense once camp starts.The teams pass rush this year could be a weak spot on this defense or be quietly very good.

New England Patriots vs Green Bay Packers
via patriots.com

 

Cyrus Jones and Darryl Roberts

The Patriots secondary was very good last season and better than most people had expected. Malcolm Butler proved that he could be a true number one corner in the NFL and was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his young career. Logan Ryan went on to have a fantastic season and at times outshining Butler in the secondary and had a good 5-6 game span where he was dominant lining up opposite from Butler. Where the Patriots did tend to struggle last season was the slot corner. Guys were constantly being mixed in such as Justin Coleman and Leonard Johnson, and though they had their moments they often struggled. The team went on to draft Alabama corner Cyrus Jones in the second round, Jones has been deemed a little undersized but has very good speed and quickness as well as playmaking skills which could make him a great fit as the teams slot corner.Jones would constantly go up against some of college football’s top wide receivers playing in the SEC and would hardly ever get beaten. Jones should make an immediate impact in the secondary whether he be the teams slot corner or end up being a starter at some point throughout the season. Jones was also the top returner in college football last season and is expected to take over the kickoff and punt returning duties in New England. Darryl Roberts is a former seventh round pick out of Marshall who is entering his second season with the Patriots. Roberts was generating a lot of buzz for himself last preseason during training camp and was looked at as a potential starter to begin the season. Roberts ended up starting the first preseason game opposite Malcolm Butler against the Green Bay Packers, and then ended up breaking his arm on the second defensive series. He was later placed on season-ending injured reserve. Roberts should be easily 100% healthy entering training camp and will hopefully continue where he left off last year. If Roberts can come back healthy and looking as good as he can be, and Jones can step in and be a contributor the Patriots could build up a very good and very young secondary.

cyrus jones
via patriots.com

Garoppolo will start in 2016, but not for Patriots

Jimmy Garoppolo’s strong play has made him into a viable NFL starter and will be starting in the 2016 season, but not for the Patriots.

Garoppolo was selected in the 2nd round of the 2014 NFL draft and was thought by some to be Tom Brady’s future successor at quarterback in New England. Garoppolo had a strong preseason his rookie year in 2014 but of course was no threat to Brady. Jimmy G was then put into the game in a blowout loss against the Chiefs where he performed well at the end of the game. The media hype grew even more on Garoppolo with some people saying that Tom Brady was done and that it was Garoppolo’s time to become the starting quarterback in New England. Garoppolo then struggled in the season finale against the Buffalo Bills going up against one of the top defenses in the NFL with a cast of backup players playing for New England.

via thebiglead.com
via thebiglead.com

After the harsh criticism of Brady by some members of the media he went on to have a fantastic rest of 2015 season and of course went on to win his fourth Super Bowl ring. And now with the never-ending “DeflateGate” scandal, Garoppolo may be the Patriots starting quarterback for the first four weeks of the regular season. Garoppolo has played well this preseason after a very inconsistent week one against the Green Bay Packers and has led two comeback victories in the preseason, improving his game each week.

I hated the pick of Garoppolo at the time and even with his improved play still do not see Garoppolo as Brady’s successor and the future quarterback of the Patriots. Though I do not see him as the future quarterback of the Patriots I think Garoppolo could be a good quarterback in the NFL and that he is currently probably better than a few starting quarterbacks on other teams and looks better than quarterbacks such as Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel, who were selected before him in the 2014 draft. With New England losing a first round pick in the 2016 NFL draft it could make sense for the team to move Jimmy G for either an early second round pick in the 2016 draft and even potentially a first rounder in 2017. Brady and Garoppolo’s contracts both expire after the 2017 season. If Brady is still playing at a high level the Patriots would have a tough decision to make on who to re-sign if both were willing to re-sign with New England. Garoppolo may not be willing to re-sign after being a backup for four season and may look to go else where and if that’s the case why not attempt to move Garoppolo at a time when you are low on draft picks. New England may not move him during this season and don’t need to, but moving him after the season would be smart to do. They could trade him to a quarterback needy team like Houston or Cleveland who could have high second round picks which could be almost equivalent to the first rounder New England lost or a first rounder for the following year.

via chowderandchampions.com
via chowderandchampions.com

Garoppolo could be a starter in the NFL sooner rather than later and I think he will be a full time starter in 2016, but it won’t be for the Patriots.

New England Patriots: Pre Training Camp 53 Man Roster Projection

With training camp rapidly approaching, Patriots fans are getting ready and anticipating the upcoming battles for roster spots that makes the month of August so exciting. This year more than in recent years, there will be an abundance of Patriots competing for jobs. With so much upcoming competition, it is time for the annual 53 man roster projection before training camp. Here is how I think the roster will look come week one against Pittsburgh.

Quarterback: Jimmy Garoppolo, Matt Flynn.

The expectations seems to be that Tom Brady will miss some game time in 2015. Whether it is four games or one game, odds are he won’t be on the field opening night. He will need to hand it over to Jimmy Garoppolo, with Matt Flynn providing solid insurance behind him.

Photo: masslive.com
Photo: masslive.com

Running Back: Brandon Bolden, Travaris Cadet, James Develin, Tyler Gaffney, Jonas Gray.

For most of the season, LeGarrette Blount will be the main running back in the Patriots offense, but in week one he will be suspended for violating the league’s drug policy. Behind him will be a plethora of running backs fighting for game time. Brandon Bolden and Jonas Gray will battle it out for touches in the, “power back” category, along with Travaris Cadet and James White fighting for the, “Pass catching back.” Tyler Gaffney is an unknown right now, he seems to have the ability to contribute in both roles. James Develin as always is the reliable fullback/tight end hyrbid. I see a rookie like Dion Lewis landing on the practice squad.

host.madison.com
host.madison.com

Wide Receiver: Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Brandon LaFell, Aaron Dobson, Brandon Gibson.

Not many surprises here. Aaron Dobson will make the roster, now that he is fully healthy he can really show his ability. Brian Tyms gets chopped here because of his lack of versatility. He can run one route and that is about it. You can’t make a living off the go route unless your name is Randy Moss. Brandon Gibson has shown that he can provide a little bit more of a spark than Tyms.

Tight End: Rob Gronkowski, Scott Chandler, AJ Derby.

I have seen Michael Hoomanawanui as a player that has been on the chopping block all offseason. I personally thought he would be gone by now. Maybe their method is to let, “Hoo-Man” play out training camp and try to prove himself. If he shows anything, theres a small possibility they get a draft pick for him. If not he gets cut. A 1.5 million dollar cap hit is too much for a run blocker. James Develin can take over that role. Jake Bequette will be interesting to say the least, however I don’t believe he will impress enough.

Tackle: Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon, Sebastian Vollmer, Cameron Fleming.

With Tom Brady’s ascending age, the Patriots ability to protect him will be pivotal in their success. With two top tier tackles they shouldn’t have a problem. In addition, Cameron Fleming is a rising talent on the offensive line. I’m not sure why Cannon is still on the team, but they love him in Foxborough. He is their utility guy that can do it all.

Guard: Ryan Wendell, Tre Jackson, Josh Kline.

With Dan Connolly gone the Patriots need insurance at the guard position, something they didn’t have when they let go of Logan Mankins last year. That was almost a detriment to the season. There will be a battle back up between Josh Kline and Jordan Devey. Neither have impressed too much over their careers, but Kline has shown at times he can step up, and Devey never has.

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Center: Bryan Stork, Shaq Mason.

Bryan Stork has his starting job locked up, now he has a little back up behind him with rookie Shaq Mason. He plays both guard and center coming out of Georgia Tech. It is hard to think that Ryan Wendell will go back to center at any point given the limited amount of talent at the position.

Defensive End: Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Trey Flowers, Geneo Grissom.

There will be a lot of rotation at defensive end this season with the addition of Jabaal Sheard. It will finally give a player such as Rob Ninkovich the chance to catch his breath as oppose to playing about ninety percent of the snaps. Also, rookies Flowers and Grissom should be intriguing prospects. Grissom in particular given his athleticism he reminds you of Jamie Collins in a way. Look for Zach Moore to land on the practice squad.

Defensive Tackle: Malcom Brown, Alan Branch, Sealver Siliga, Dominique Easley, Chris Jones

Another spot were there will be plenty of competition because of the loss of Vince Wilfork. Furthermore, reports have been that Zach Moore has put on significant size so look for him to receive reps at defensive tackle during camp. Joe Vellano gets cut for the second year in a row.

via blog.masslive.com
via blog.masslive.com

Linebacker: Jerod Mayo, Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, Dane Fletcher, Matthew Wells.

Many believe that Dont’a Hightower will begin the season on the physically unable to perform list. However, many have reported that he is ahead of schedule in his rehab leading me to believe that he will be ready. Also, keep an eye on the health of Jerod Mayo as he recovers from a torn patellar. If he doesn’t prove to be healthy look for Belichick to pick up a veteran that was cut from another team.

Cornerback: Malcolm Bulter, Logan Ryan, Bradley Fletcher, Robert McClain, Darryl Roberts.

It is simple, with such as lack of talent the Patriots need all the bodies they have at cornerback. Expect all five of these players to see the field often early on as rotation will be key in figuring out which player belong on the field. Much like the offensive line at the start of last season.

Safety: Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Patrick Chung, Jordan Richards, Nate Ebner.

It was very clear on May 1st when the Patriots drafted Jordan Richards, they were drafting Tavon Wilson’s replacement. He is a guy that struggles in pass coverage, can play the run, and is great on special teams. Exactly like Wilson. Expect Devin McCourty to be on the field about one-hundred percent of the defensive snaps, and for Chung and Harmon to rotate depending on the situation.

Special Teams: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Matthew Slater, Chris White.

After Stephen Gostkowski just inked his new contract with the Patriots should once again be in the tops of the league in special teams. Joe Cardona was the top rated long snapper in this year’s draft and his snaps have been clocked at over 40 miles per hour. That is certainly worth noting.

Patriots Training Camp Battles: Matt Flynn Vs. Jimmy Garoppolo For Back Up Quarterback

Now more than ever in the past fifteen years, the Patriots back up quarterbacks will be assessed during training camp this summer. With Tom Brady’s four game suspension currently standing, you have to believe there is a good chance that Brady will miss some game time this season. With that being said, Matt Flynn and Jimmy Garoppolo will be two players to keep a close eye on throughout camp, and they are the newest installment in our training camp battles.

Matt Flynn is going into training camp this summer with virtually zero pressure or expectations. The vast majority of Patriots fans and media are all aboard the, “Jimmy G” hype train. Nobody is giving Flynn a legitimate shot at the back up job. The reality is, he should have just as much of a chance to land the job as Jimmy Garoppolo. Flynn is a much more proven pro quarterback.

Now Matt Flynn is no superstar himself. He has made a boat load of money over his career based off one spectacular game in week seventeen of the 2011 season. Against the Detroit Lions he went 33 of 49, for 518 yards, and six touchdowns. That lead to Flynn inking a three-year, 26 million-dollar deal with Seattle, only to be beat out in training camp by rookie Russell Wilson. After 2012 Flynn bounced around from Oakland, to Buffalo, and eventually back to Green Bay were he once again proved to be a reliable fill-in for Aaron Rodgers.

This summer, Flynn will have to prove that he can digest another teams playbook, which he has had trouble with over his career. He can move around the pocket well, his decision making and ability to control the offense will determine whether or not he can take over the back up role. Reps in the pre season will be huge for Flynn. In addition, he is familiar with Brandon LaFell as they were both apart of the 2008 BCS National Championship team at Louisiana State. Just something to keep an eye on.

Jan 1, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn (10) throws a pass during the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field.  Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE
Photo: cbssports.com

Jimmy Garoppolo on the other hand, has a lot of pressure on him going into training camp. He has barely seen any NFL game time and most fans are proclaiming him as the second coming of Steve Young. Garoppolo can move around the pocket well and take off when the pocket collapses. It is a skill that Tom Brady doesn’t have, which could be key with a young offensive line.

However, his flashes last season of making plays with his legs masked the fact that he had difficulty throwing the ball down field and making smart decisions. For the most part when his first read is taken away, he just runs around like a chicken with his head cut off.

Luckily for Garoppolo he has three huge things going for him in 2015. He has spent the most important offseason of his career healthy, he has had more than two months already to prepare as a starter, and his targets on offseason are some of the best in the league. When you have a unanimous All-Pro tight end in Rob Gronkowski, and an elite receiver such as Julian Edelman it is tough for any quarterback to not have success.

Photo: masslive.com
Photo: masslive.com

All in all, Jimmy Garoppolo will end up winning the back up job at the end of training camp this year. The reasoning for this is for multiple reasons. The most important being he is Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels special project. They drafted him high with the expectations that he could start one day. He is the type of player Josh McDaniels has always liked at quarterback.

Also, Matt Flynn has never proven that he can win a quarterback battle. He couldn’t do it in Seattle when he was given the money, or in Buffalo. Even in Oakland he was shipped out for Matt Schaub and Derek Carr. Patriots fans should feel uneasy if either of these players have to start early in the season, but Jimmy Garoppolo will give them the best shot to stay in it.

Patriots Training Camp Battles: Malcolm Butler Vs. Logan Ryan For Number One Cornerback

Images from profootballspot.com and sportsspyder.com
Images from profootballspot.com and sportsspyder.com

For all of Patriots Nation right now, the cornerback position on their team is a touchy and sensitive subject. With the departures of Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Kyle Arrington, and Alfonzo Dennard this past offseason, Bill Belichick is left with veteran cast-offs and unproven young players to work with this summer.

It is a scary thought for all fans that support the red, blue, and silver with cornerback arguably being the second most important position in the game.  With the Patriots having so little experience in their defense with their corners, players such as Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan who have experience will be essential pieces in the secondary rebuild process. The only question now will be which player will take over the number one cornerback spot, Butler or Ryan?

Before February 1st, 2015 the casual fan had never heard of the name Malcolm Butler. Now he is making every social appearance he can to soak up his fifteen minutes of fame after his Super Bowl heroics. Nevertheless, Super Bowl XLIX is in the past and it is time to focus on how the Patriots can repeat, and Butler could be a key piece.

During the 2014 regular season, Malcolm Butler showed that he belongs in the National Football League. He was the surprise of training camp, and Bill Belichick was not afraid to put him in key veteran like situations.

For example, in week nine he spent significant time covering both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders of the Denver Broncos. Furthermore, he matched up against Mike Wallace in both contests against Miami. Every time he held his own ground, showing that pitbull like nastiness that earned himself a spot on the roster.

This year, the microscope will be focused in on Butler. The margin for error will be so small any little mistake will be criticized by Patriots fans and most importantly his head coach. However, based off what we’ve seen from Butler in his very short career, he will be ready to take on the challenge.

Logan Ryan has been the opposite of Malcolm Butler, a disappointment. In his rookie season he flashed at times intercepting five passes. However, the interceptions masked the fact that he was consistently getting beat by his receivers.

In his sophomore campaign, Ryan only digressed. Whenever he was on the field in 2014, the opposing quarterback attacked him and instantly and picked him apart. Most notably in week thirteen against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

So far this season, Ryan has received the most amount of reps due to Malcolm Butler’s absence from OTA’s. Players are in only shorts and t-shirts at OTA’s, but based off reports he impressed the most out of any of the cornerbacks.

Ryan has shown nothing yet that proves he can be a number one cornerback on a elite team. Although, he is the most experienced cornerback in the Patriots system so the job may be his for the taking. That should scare Patriots fans big time.

In the end, the battle for the number one cornerback spot on the Patriots roster this summer will most likely be won by Malcolm Butler.

He is far from a proven cornerback in the National Football League, but his ceiling seems to be higher than any of the players on the depth chart. Logan Ryan has only decreased as his career has gone on, leaving me with little hope that he can be an every down starting corner.