That’s becoming clear. Good in his first two seasons, Kerrigan is ready to take the leap to great. The outside linebacker is strong, smart and focused on helping the Washington Redskins become a perennial winner again. Together with Orakpo, Kerrigan forms an edge-rushing tandem expected to accomplish a lot this season. As Kerrigan has shown in the preseason, he’s up to the challenge.
Kerrigan played about as well as a 3-4 outside linebacker could during the first half of Washington’s 24-13 victory over Pittsburgh in Week 2 of the preseason. He dominated Steelers starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert in a performance that included an interception returned for a touchdown, a sack and a forced fumble. It seemed Kerrigan was everywhere for the Redskins, whose retooled pass rush has impressed throughout the tuneup for the regular season.
Sure, it’s only the preseason. But Kerrigan’s big night occurred against the Steelers’ first-string line. And he has been moving in a star-is-emerging direction for some time.
A hand-down 4-3 end in college, Kerrigan made an even smoother transition than the Redskins could have hoped to a position in which he often has coverage responsibilities. Kerrigan’s touchdowns indicate he didn’t need long to find his groove in coverage.
In each of his first two seasons, Kerrigan, who gets better each day in covering tight ends and running backs, returned an interception for a touchdown while rushing the quarterback. He produced a similar highlight-tape turnover against the Steelers, returning a Ben Roethlisberger pass 22 yards for a score.
Listed at 6 feet 4 and 260 pounds, Kerrigan is a big man who had to learn to become a cover guy. Fortunately for Kerrigan and the Redskins, he’s a quick study.
From the moment the team’s No. 1 draft choice in 2011 arrived at Redskins Park, Kerrigan has been known for three things: work ethic, intelligence and inquisitiveness. Former Redskins linebacker Lorenzo Alexander once told me that Kerrigan asks more astute questions in a day than some players come up with in a season. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett expects Kerrigan to contribute good ideas to whatever topic is being discussed.
Kerrigan is always thinking about what comes next. Combined with his interest in film study, Kerrigan is an outstanding student who has learned well from his teachers.
“I’ve had a lot of good people around me,” Kerrigan said the other day. “Lorenzo was a big help. Just being able to ask him about different situations was important for me. ’Rak is always helping me out. Then when you have good coaching along the way, too, it makes everything a lot easier. But I’ve also worked really hard.”