Ryan stars for Patriots defense in big night for former Scarlet Knights

Ryan stars for Patriots defense in big night for former Scarlet Knights


FOXBORO -- Patriots corner Logan Ryan was faced with a handful of cameras and microphones at his locker following his team's Divisional Round win over the Texans, and he took the opportunity to give his alma mater a little bit of free advertising.

"If you're a DB, come to Piscataway," he said, referencing the New Jersey township where Rutgers is located. "That's how we feel."

There was no better time for the mention as all three Patriots defensive backs who were once teammates at Rutgers -- Ryan, Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon -- intercepted Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler to help seal a 34-16 victory and punch New England's ticket to its sixth straight AFC Championship Game.

"It was big," said Ryan, whose pick was his first-career postseason interception. "I knew once Dev would get one, I would get one, and Duron always closes it out. It was a big day for Rutgers, just like we planned. It was good to get those. Those are big this time of year."

Ryan was key for the Patriots defense throughout the game as he found himself often lined up against Texans No. 1 target DeAndre Hopkins, particularly in the slot. Playing every defensive snap as the team's No. 2 corner, Ryan finished with two pass deflections to go along with the turnover on seven targets. In all, he allowed just three catches for a combined nine yards, giving Osweiler a measly quarterback rating of 10.7 when he was targeted.

On his interception, Ryan's chemistry with McCourty was on display as the two hashed out their coverage just before the snap. It was first down, and the Texans had the ball on their own 11, ready to start a drive down, 24-16. 

Both Ryan and McCourty were focused in on Hopkins. They figured there was a good chance Osweiler would turn to his go-to guy in order to spark the series.

"Devin really called the play," Ryan said. "Devin said, 'Hey, if he runs an in-cut, get underneath him.' I was fortunate to get underneath him. The ball was a little high. Devin was right there, it was tipped, and I was able to be where it was. 

"We actually talked about that play before it happened which is crazy, but that's something that with film study and preparation we were able to talk about and be able to play plays. They ran exactly what we thought they would, and we were able to capitalize."

Ryan also added a sack on a blitz to continue his recent stretch of filling up box scores. He has interceptions now in three of his last four games, and he has five quarterback pressures (including two sacks) in his last six games. 

There was a point in the season when Ryan's playing time was relatively inconsistent, but since losing to the Seahawks at home, he has settled into his role as someone who can be a versatile piece, moving from outside to inside and out again on a snap-to-snap basis.

With an ability to communicate the defense and instincts to jump passing lanes, Ryan has thrived with whatever he's been asked to do of late, and he's playing his best football at the optimal time. 

"I feel good," he said. "I just felt confident. I felt like I played terrible last division game last year against Kansas City. I felt like it was some redemption, felt comfortable playing this offense and seeing Hopkins for years. 

"I had a pretty good game the first time. I knew they were going to come after me. I just wanted to be extremely locked in and be able to capitalize. When they were throwing at me, I didn't want to let the team down."

Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

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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."