Logan Ryan on Falcons WRs: 'Our job is tough; we know that'

Logan Ryan on Falcons WRs: 'Our job is tough; we know that'

If the Patriots put Malcolm Butler on Julio Jones on Super Bowl Sunday, that means that former college teammates and suitemates Logan Ryan and Mohamed Sanu could see quite a bit of each other. 


Or the Pats could opt to put Ryan on Jones, or try some combination of one of their top three corners with safety help. 

Whatever they do, there’s a pretty good chance that Ryan is going to have to face either Julio Jones or Mohamed Sanu in the most important game of the season. If that sounds difficult, it's because it is. 

“It’s a huge task,” Ryan said Sunday. “I mean, they’re one of the most productive [groups] in the league, obviously offensively. We see what they do. We see what they did to other secondaries so we have our work cut out for us.

“But at the same time, Pittsburgh was the same way and a lot of guys that we’ve played have – I mean receivers are the best athletes in the world, honestly. A lot of those guys are extremely athletic. Our job is tough -- we know that -- but we’ve got to do it together.”

Ryan has two points there, both of which are correct. The Falcons have been able to throw on secondaries good and bad. The Broncos gave up the fewest passing yards this season, yet Matt Ryan still managed a respectable 267 yards against them. He threw for 335 yards with three touchdowns and a pick against Seattle, the No. 8 pass defense in the league. 

The other point that Ryan raises is that it isn’t like the Patriots haven’t spent time preparing for top receivers all postseason long. Even going back to the divisional round, DeAndre Hopkins posed a threat even without a quarterback. Antonio Brown did have a quarterback, but the Pats managed to keep the Steelers in check. 

The Falcons are a different animal, however. From Jones to Sanu to running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, the weapons Atlanta possesses are legitimate. Factor in that Matt Ryan had a career year and defending them becomes even more daunting. 

Sunday marked the Patriots’ final practice in Foxboro before they travel to Houston Monday. Ryan said preparations have been “extremely productive.”

“Bill fortunately has done this a couple times, more than a couple times,” Ryan said. “So I think he has a good plan for us and [it’s] similar to 2014, the schedule. We kind of know what to expect and like I said, it’s our last practice at home so we’re going to have fun with it.” 

Just how New England’s secondary fares against Atlanta’s passing attack will determine how much fun it actually proves to be. It’s only fitting that the Super Bowl provide the toughest challenge they face. 

Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

File photo

Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

Johnny Manziel said 10 days ago, "I'd go to New England in a heartbeat," when asked about the Patriots as a potential landing spot.

That seemed like wishful thinking at the time, but they're taking a look at him...along with 12 other NFL teams, according to ESPN's Eric Williams. 

Tom Brady's current backup Brian Hoyer is, like Manziel, an ex-Cleveland Browns quarterback. Manziel would again be competing with Hoyer for the Pats' No. 2 job should New England take a chance on "Johnny Football", the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M, who's been out of football the past two years because of substance abuse and emotional problems.

FOX Sports' Bruce Feldman had it at 12 teams watching Manziel work out at the University of San Diego and said the Patriots gave Manziel a weigh-in.


Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

The Patriots have agreed to re-sign offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, his agent Scott Casterline confirmed on Twitter.  Waddle hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year began and made a visit to the Cowboys earlier this week. In the end, though, he chose to return to the team that claimed him off of waivers at the end of the 2015 season.

Waddle, who turns 27 in July, appeared in 12 games last season for the Patriots. He was the first right tackle the Patriots turned to when Marcus Cannon suffered an ankle injury mid-season against the Chargers. He ended up playing 51 snaps against the likes of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram without allowing a sack. He then started the next three games against the Broncos, Raiders and Dolphins and held star rushers Von Miller, Khalil Mack and Cameron Wake -- all of whom rush primarily off of the offensive right -- without a sack. 

Injuries forced Waddle (380 snaps on the season) to split the right tackle position with Cameron Fleming (543 snaps), but he was the primary backup when healthy. Waddle started the Divisional Round playoff game against the Titans but suffered a knee injury and was removed for Fleming. 

Both Fleming and Waddle visited the Cowboys this week, and the fact that Waddle has re-signed with the Patriots may impact Fleming's decision moving forward. 

The Patriots went to great lengths to build tackle depth last season, and adding Waddle to the roster helps them retain some of that depth after losing their left tackle, Nate Solder, to the Giants via free agency. Waddle could be an option on the left side, but the vast majority of his work since entering the league as an undrafted rookie in 2013 has been on the right side. 

The Patriots now have Fleming, Marcus Cannon, Cole Croston, Tony Garcia and Andrew Jelks on their depth chart at tackle. Croston, Garcia and Jelks are all headed into their second years as pros. Croston remained on the 53-man roster all season -- an indication that the Patriots liked him enough not to expose him to the waiver system -- but did not see meaningful snaps. Garcia and Jelks both missed the entirety of the 2017 season on reserve lists. 

Once the Patriots lost Solder to the Giants, it seemed to be of paramount importance that the Patriots re-sign either Waddle or Fleming. Behind Cannon, there were simply too many question marks not to have one return. The Patriots could opt to draft a tackle, but this is considered an average year at that position in that there are few ready-made NFL players and several developmental types.

Before the Super Bowl last season, I asked offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia how the team was able to manage offensively with backups at right tackle for much of the season. 

"It's not like [Fleming and Waddle are] not good players," Scarnecchia said. "They are good players. Their skill set seemed to fit that position pretty well. They have the traits that we covet. And they're both really smart guys, very willing learners, and they're both driven to be good and they want to play good. And I think all those things have manifested themselves when they've been out there playing. And we've been very, very pleased with what they've done for us this year, essentially splitting that position."

Asked about the aspects of the game the Patriots worked on with both Waddle and Fleming last year, Scarnecchia said, "For us it transcends everything. Obviously run-blocking and pass-blocking. They're both good at those things. Are they great at those things? No. But they've been able to steadily improve over the last two years to the point where we put them out there and no one's worried. And it's been that way the whole season after Marcus got hurt. Yeah they've done a nice job for us."