FOXBORO, Mass. — Julian Edelman used to have a hard enough time trying to break free from Logan Ryan during Patriots practice. Their battles were legendary.
On Saturday night, the war resumes, as the Patriots’ top receiver is likely to see a lot of Ryan, and whichever Titans safety is in the neighborhood.
Double teams have been a part of Edelman’s existence this season, particularly in recent games. That’s the strategy most opposing defenses have been using to try and thwart Tom Brady and the Patriots offense.
Last week, the Dolphins held a banged up Edelman to just three catches for 26 yards. None of the other receivers were able to pick up the slack.
So Brady’s go-to-guy, who has been nursing shoulder and knee injuries, is going to have to find a way to get open against Ryan & Co., or the rest of the receiving corps is going to have to deliver.
“We’ve had a lot of different looks. It’s just about going out there and doing your job,” Edelman said Thursday, when asked if the double teams were becoming second nature to him. “Of course your job changes with different looks, so it’s about going out there and trying to do the right job with the right look.”
Edelman knows it’s not going to get any easier with Ryan, who is having a terrific season as the Titans’ nickel back. The former Patriot returned this year from the broken leg he suffered late last season and has turned in a stellar year.
He set career highs with 19 passes defensed and four forced fumbles, to go along with four and a half sacks and four interceptions.
“Logan, I’ve seen him firsthand, how he works, the extra time he’s put in,” said Edelman. “I have nothing but respect for Logan. He’s a really good football player, having an excellent year. He’s got a lot of picks. Like I said, a savvy football player.”
Ryan knows what Edelman means to Brady, and knows his performance will have a significant impact on the game.
As for the Patriots quarterback, he recalled the battles between the two, saying they’re both “talented players” who know each other well, and “make you pay when you make a mistake.”
“I have a lot of respect for Logan. Logan was a hell of a player here. It was hard to see him go, but he got a great opportunity to go to Tennessee,” said Brady. “We’ve played him a few times. He’s just a competitor. He’s a football player. He’s mentally, physically tough. He’s good in the run game, a really good blitzer. Really good hands.
“So if you make a mistake, he makes you pay. I’ll be very conscious of where he’s at. I don’t want to make a mistake that causes us a big problem.”
Patriots Coach Bill Belichick also praised his former player, calling him a “smart, instinctive player.” Of Ryan’s 17 career interceptions, 13 came while was with the Patriots.
“He’s had a really good year. Probably one of the better starters — well, nickel backs — we’ve seen all year. Played very well,” said Belichick. “They blitz him some — some man zone, blitz zone. He’s very good on disguise, all the things that he’s always done well.”
On Saturday night, Ryan’s mission will be a familiar one: Stop Edelman.