Logan Ryan is about as unlikely a leader on the Giants’ defense as you can imagine.
How unlikely? Well, he wasn’t even on the team a little over a month ago. And he might not have even been with them at all had rookie safety Xavier McKinney not suffered a broken foot late in training camp.
But here he is, a 29-year-old defensive back with seven-plus seasons of experience, two Super Bowl rings and an outsized personality that is already paying off for a new coaching staff and a mostly new cast of defensive players.
"The thing that stands out to be me about Logan is he’s a very consistent player and has a very consistent attitude and approach to the game," first-year defensive coordinator Patrick Graham said. "He’s there early, he’s working hard, he’s asking the right questions. He makes you a better coach because he asks you the right questions."
Ryan has brought stability to the defense at a time when the Giants need it most. While he can’t correct the myriad problems on offense, which go to the heart of the Giants’ 0-4 start, the safety has done his part on the other side of the ball.
Ryan is on a one-year deal worth up to $7.5 million, and the former Rutgers star who played four seasons in New England and another three in Tennessee is proving to be worth every penny. He’s the kind of seasoned pro that every team can use, a savvy player who not only has a grasp of what his team is doing but has the ability to translate things to his teammates.
He’s the kind of guy Graham puts in a category with some highly respected players he has worked with in the past. Names that will be very familiar to Giants fans.
"The most I’ve learned in this league has been from former players like Pepper Johnson and Carl Banks, Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork when I was in New England," Graham said. "It’s the guys that played that teach you the game and how to convey it to the players."
Banks, the Giants’ former first-round linebacker who went on to become an All Pro and is now the team’s radio analyst, is a fan of the defensive coordinator.
"Pat is a very smart coach," Banks said. "I’m a very big fan and supporter of the defensive principles he subscribes to."
One of those principles is selflessness, which is why Ryan fits in so well. He gets the drill.
"Pat Graham is a huge reason I’m here," Ryan said. "I talked to him before signing and I just loved the vision he had for me and this defense. It takes smart players, it takes good players and I think we are becoming better every week. You definitely need some intellectual players back there to manage it. It takes players without too big of an ego. ‘Oh, I’m only a 4-3 guy, I’m only a 3-4 guy, I’m only a strong safety, I only like to tackle, I don’t cover, I don’t cover tight ends.’ You have to take the ‘me’ guys out of it. You have to be a team-first guy."
It’s an attitude Banks learned from Belichick when the two worked together with the Bill Parcells-coached Giants teams of the 1980’s. An attitude that Graham and Ryan understood when they worked with Belichick, as well as Joe Judge, in New England.
"Some game plans, your numbers might be called to blitz," Ryan said. "I love to blitz. Some games, I blitz 30 times. Other games, I don’t blitz once. I don’t know if I blitzed last week and I love to blitz, but it was the best game plan to get our defense to stop what the Rams did and it worked for most of the game. I think you have to be selfless, I think you have to be pretty smart and I think you have to put the team first in order to play in it."
Ryan said the mindset has seeped into this Giants’ team, even though he’s still so new to his current surroundings.
"I think we have a bunch of guys that are like that here, that like working hard and like playing gritty, hard-nosed defense," he said.
If that gritty, hard-nosed defense is good enough on Sunday, then maybe, just maybe, the Giants can start to become relevant in a division that has so far been a colossal disappointment.