Joe Judge was an assistant with the Patriots when they drafted Logan Ryan in 2013.
“I have a ton of memories with Logan,” Judge said on Tuesday. “I was there early on. It was only my second year in the league when we drafted Logan. We kind of learned a lot of stuff together, to be honest with you.”
Both of them have come a long way since, Judge first promoted to special teams coordinator in New England and then hired as coach of the Giants in January, and Ryan blossoming from a young special teams player to one of the most productive defensive backs in the NFL. Their paths diverged for a bit, but now they will be reunited. And Judge could not be happier.
The Giants agreed to terms with Ryan on a one-year contract on Monday evening. He won’t be with them on the practice field until next week after he clears the COVID-19 testing protocol and his physical.
But on Tuesday the veteran, 29, who can play both cornerback and safety was pretty much the only topic Judge was asked about. Given the effusive nature of his answers about a player not officially on the roster, his enthusiasm was evident.
It also likely made watching his team practice on Tuesday afternoon, with young cornerback after young cornerback getting beaten by established receivers on deep passes from Daniel Jones, somewhat more palatable knowing help is on the way.
This was a move the Giants had been working on for months, and Judge, with his relationship with Ryan, was in the middle of the process. That’s one of the perks of being a head coach.
“You’re always in dealings as an assistant and coordinator, knowing what the personnel moves may or may not be,” he said. “But I’d say there’s a little bit more foot-tapping when you’re the assistant or the coordinator and you don’t have every piece of information going on at the time. Sometimes you feel like you’re in the dark.”
Judge was in the light on this one. And the addition helped illuminate the entire defense.
“Anytime you can add a player like that with that kind of background you’re excited,” linebacker Markus Golden said. “You always want to make the team better.”
Golden said he doesn’t know Ryan personally. Neither does Blake Martinez. But they did ask current Giant Nate Ebner, who played with Ryan in New England, about their new teammate.
“I’ve heard a lot of great things,” Martinez said.
Judge, though, has experienced them first-hand.
“Logan’s a guy who comes to work every day with the right demeanor,” Judge said. “He’s a smart guy that plays tough on the field. He’s a player that I noticed through my time with him and then also my time away competing against him, that he’s a guy that really improves from year to year. He really works on his craft. He’s not just a guy who’s out there, kind of ‘this is what I am.’ He’s always looking to work on maybe something that hurt him the year before and he’s looking to always go ahead and improve on his strengths. Look, he brings a lot of versatility. He’s a smart, tough football player… We have had a lot of guys in the defensive backfield make a lot of improvements every day. It’ll be good to get him in the mix with all of those guys.”
Ryan is listed as a cornerback, but Judge knows well how he can be moved around in the secondary.
“He’s going to play a variety of roles for us,” Judge said. “Logan, one of his strengths really is versatility. We’re going to play him in different packages all over the field. Really, having a guy like that allows you to play other guys in fewer positions because he can handle a lot of the multiples while these guys are learning the system.”
Judge has been adamant about developing the young players on the roster to fill holes in the secondary, and despite bringing in the type of player who hardly ever comes off the field, he believes he still can do that.
“I don’t think it’s a conflict at all,” he said. “He’s going to play a variety of roles, so it’s going to allow other guys to really develop in what they do. We’re going to play a lot of defensive backs by game plan and package situation in different roles, so everyone has to develop all the way… Our job as coaches is to keep the team developing throughout the course of the year so that we have a better product at the end of the season than we do at the beginning.”
They certainly have a better product at the end of the preseason than they did at the beginning thanks to Ryan.
“It’s valuable to bring in good football players,” Judge said. “If you’re a good player, you’ll help us.”
Judge thinks Ryan is and can.
“We’re excited to have Logan on his way.”
Notes & quotes: Judge said WR Golden Tate is “day-to-day” with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. LB Blake Martinez was on the field for individual drills but did not participate in any team snaps with an undisclosed injury … Practice ended with a fumble recovery drill, working to cover a loose football while the area was being soaked with a garden hose. It was so much fun the assistant coaches participated in it after the players were finished. Then the team started chanting “Joe! Joe! Joe!” and Judge obliged, flopping into the muck to secure the loose football and end the workout. “That was big time,” Golden said. “Coach Judge, he knows how to do it… It’s football, but ain’t nothing wrong with mixing a little fun into it. It was a fun way to end practice.”