The Redskins drafted Ryan Kerrigan in the first round in April to complement outside linebacker Brian Orakpo and bring more balance to Washington’s pass-rushing attack.
Kerrigan remains a work in progress as he continues his move from defensive end to outside linebacker, but already he has made his presence felt. In Game 1, Kerrigan batted a pass, intercepted it and returned it nine yards for a touchdown.
In Game 2, Kerrigan recorded his first career sack, and almost recorded a second. Meanwhile, Orakpo recorded a sack and a forced fumble in last Sunday’s game, and Dallas Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett noted that the Redskins already have began achieving the balance they sought.
“They certainly have a lot of pass rushers on that defense, and Kerrigan is certainly one of them,” said Garrett, whose Cowboys face the Redskins on Monday night. “We really liked him coming out of school, and we felt like his ability to transition to the NFL was going to be a quick one, and I feel like that’s the case. He’s definitely showing up, and certainly when he’s playing opposite [Orakpo] on the other side, he’s an outstanding player.”
Ultimately, Kerrigan will help ease pressure on Orakpo and keep them from being able to dedicate all of their double-teams to the third-year Texas product. But for now, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said he hasn’t been able to determine if teams have changed their pass-protection philosophies already to account for the rookie.
“We haven’t played enough to really determine it,” Haslett said. “If Ryan keeps establishing himself, and Orakpo is one of the better players in the league, then I think things will change based off that. It’s just the same thing as when you play Dallas or Pittsburgh, and they have two great [pass rushers]. Hopefully we can get to that level.”
When asked what improvements he had seen in Kerrigan’s play thus far, Haslett said: “I thought Ryan did exactly what we worked on in practice. He was physical on the tackles. The sack he got, he bull-rushed the tackle, ran into him and leveraged him. Ryan’s strong, but he has to keep working from that aspect. The first game, he was just trying to beat the tackle, and not [focusing on] getting a sack. The second game, he was trying to get a sack, not worrying about the tackle. He’s not the kind of guy that’s just going to run by people all of the time. He’s 270 pounds and 6-5, so he needs to use a combination of speed and power.”
Kerrigan said things haven’t exactly come easily, but that he has been able to make adjustments faster than he anticipated. He can feel himself making improvements, but he noted he still has plenty of growing to do still.
“I’ve still got to do a lot of things better,” Kerrigan said. “I would like to rush the passer with more consistency, and also be a little tighter in coverage. But I feel like I’m making some strides.”