“I have to credit to the secondary,” Kerrigan said. “That definitely was a coverage sack. They made Bradford hold on to the ball long enough for me to get there.”
Veterans appreciate Kerrigan’s wide-eyed humility. His work ethic has been just as important. The smarts he has displayed since player-only offseason workouts, though, provided the first indication the Redskins chose wisely in the draft.
“He picked up everything pretty quickly in training camp,” Fletcher said. “He doesn’t make the same mistakes twice.”
Simply watching Orakpo has taught him a lot, Kerrigan says. “Every time [Bradford] dropped back,” he said, “it seemed like ’Rak was back there tackling him.”
Orakpo, who is in his third year, performed at a high level last season during the difficult transition from Washington’s long-standing 4-3 to 3-4. For years, Washington had top-10 defenses. Statistically, the Redskins ranked among the NFL’s leaders. But they weren’t a big-play bunch. Knockout blows weren’t the Redskins’ thing.
Under former defensive coordinator Greg Blache, the Redskins jabbed, countered and focused on winning decisions.
Orakpo and Kerrigan are part of a new big-play foundation. Coach Mike Shanahan told coordinator Jim Haslett to give him a championship-caliber defense. With a clear mandate, Haslett needs everything Orakpo and Kerrigan have to offer.
“Man, I’m just happy to be a part of it,” Orakpo said. “We’ve been saying all along that pressure is the key. That just getting the right guys to help us get to the quarterback . . . would make the difference.
“If we just got a guy on the opposite side of me like him [Kerrigan], a big nose in Cofield and added some other key elements, you’d see it arrive on the field. You see it now. We’re something to deal with.”
With their talented bookend linebackers, Washington’s defense is getting closer. The group’s expectations are higher. Who knows where it will all go? But it sure seems Orakpo and Kerrigan are beginning a long ride.