The New York Jets’ cornerback situation is dire, but Logan Ryan isn’t the answer. The Jets would be better off going with the current group.
The New York Jets have one of the worst cornerback rooms in the NFL. They don’t have a single cornerback with multiple seasons of above-average play. What they do have is a young group of corners who fit Gregg Williams‘ scheme.
Logan Ryan doesn’t fit the bill. He’s going to be an expensive and poor free agent signing for somebody and it shouldn’t be the Jets. The 29-year-old cornerback is coming off both a career year and one of the worst seasons of his career. It’s a complicated business that makes Ryan an unnecessary risk for the Jets.
The team has a number of young corners who are better suited for Williams’ scheme and deserve a chance to play. It doesn’t make sense to dole out $10 million for a corner who doesn’t fit the roster and seems to be in serious decline.
The counting stats make Logan Ryan look like a steal this late in free agency. He had four interceptions, forced a career-high four fumbles, had a career-high 113 tackles, and racked up a career-high 4.5 sacks. All of that on a defense that went to the AFC Championship game in 2019.
That makes him look like a star, but he isn’t. Counting stats are incredibly hard to replicate, especially when players aren’t putting up good numbers consistently. Ryan had zero interceptions and only one forced fumble in 2017 and 2018 combined.
Expecting Ryan to be a turnover machine again in 2019 is foolhardy. He’s hasn’t been that kind of player in his career. More often than not, turnovers are lucky—poor passes by quarterbacks, catching balls off tips, the ball coming out of a player’s hand without it being punched out. All of these happened for Ryan at an obscene rate in 2019.
That should come as no surprise. He intercepted passes from Baker Mayfield, Jameis Winston, and two from Jacoby Brissett in the regular season. Those three quarterbacks combined for 57 interceptions. Winston and Mayfield threw more interceptions than any other quarterbacks in football.
That takes some of the shine off his counting stats. That’s not the worst part though.
According to Pro Football Focus, Ryan allowed more yards than any other slot corner in the NFL, he was also targeted the most of any cornerback in the NFL, and allowed the most receptions of any cornerback in the NFL.
Ryan had a completion percentage allowed of 67%, allowed over 900 yards, and gave up five touchdown passes. How bad is that? Here’s a look at how Arthur Maulet‘s stats would have looked when extrapolated over 16 games started: 66.7% completion, 717 yards allowed, and zero touchdowns.
To add to the Titans and Jets comparison. The Tennessee Titans ranked 21st in pass defense DVOA in 2019, the New York Jets ranked 18th. Why would they be looking to add the worst player from a worse pass defense as a starter?
The stats say that Ryan is a player on the decline. He was one of the worst cover corners in football in 2019, but he took advantage of poor quarterback play to pad his counting stats. That’s not the kind of player any team should be looking to spend starter money on.
The Jets have addressed the cornerback position a number of times this offseason. They re-signed Brian Poole, signed Pierre Desir, drafted Bryce Hall, and traded for Quincy Wilson. All of those moves make signing Logan Ryan unnecessary.
Pierre Desir was excellent with the Colts in 2018 when he was fully healthy and asked to be a zone cover corner. He faltered quite a bit in 2019 with a hamstring injury and a switch to man coverage. Now in New York, Desir will return to zone coverage as the Jets hope for a bounce-back year.
Desir will be the Jets’ No. 1 corner when the season starts. that’s going to be true whether or not the Jets sign Ryan.
Ryan’s preferred spot on the field is in the slot. He’s played primarily slot corner since 2015. The Jets’ have that role filled already with Brian Poole.
Poole was arguably the best slot corner in the NFL in 2019. He allowed 57.5% completion, 425 yards, and four touchdowns in 2019. More impressive was Poole’s 10.1 yards per reception and 5.8 yards per target, both of which were top 10 in the league.
With Poole in the fold, and already a key part of Gregg Williams’ defense, it’s hard to see Ryan taking that spot. That means he;’ll have to play outside. The competition there is less steep.
He’d be up against Wilson, Hall, Maulet, and Bless Austin. Maulet and Austin were sheltered in 2019. Williams’ played a lot of zone coverage to give them simple assignments. It worked well, but it’s not ideal. Neither is likely to win a starting job in 2020.
The Jets traded a sixth-round pick for Quincy Wilson. As mentioned earlier, Wilson is best suited for a zone scheme. If he’s healthy, he should take well to New York’s defensive system.
I had a first-round grade on Bryce Hall. He’s a perfect fit for Gregg Williams’ scheme and only fell to the fifth round due to a serious ankle injury that teams couldn’t check out. He’s already been medically cleared by his doctor to return to action.
If Hall is anything like the player he was when he was healthy at Virginia, there’s a very real chance he will open as the Jets’ starting cornerback.
Even if none of the four are perfect options, they’re better than Ryan. They all have very recent experience starting as an outside corner while Ryan hasn’t done that in six years. After struggling in the slot, it’s not likely Ryan is going to find success on the outside.
He’s small at just 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, and he doesn’t have the athleticism to make up for it. He ran a 4.56 at his combine, and he’s likely only gotten slower as he’s nearing 30.
Even if Ryan was a good slot cornerback, which the stats say he isn’t, he doesn’t have a spot on the roster. Instead of trying to fit a very expensive square peg into a round hole, the Jets should just let their young corners battle it out.
Who knows, maybe one of them just might surprise and become the steal of the offseason.