“I do recognize plays,” Kerrigan said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to recognize situations and be in the right spot. So, yes, it’s a little bit of luck. But a lot of it is preparation.”
Same goes for when Kerrigan rushes the passer. He had 16 sacks the past two seasons — the Redskins’ highest total during that span — and played in his first Pro Bowl after the 2012 season. Boosted by the return of Orakpo, who played in only two games last season because of injury, high-energy rookie Brandon Jenkins and veteran newcomer Darryl Tapp, Washington seems much improved at outside linebacker. The Redskins finished tied for 23rd in the NFL with only 32 sacks last season. They should be more productive in that area in 2013.
Although Kerrigan is best at overpowering opponents, he also possesses quickness, is improving at using his hands and is so versatile that Haslett uses him as an interior lineman to rush in some defensive alignments. The forced fumble in the victory over Pittsburgh occurred on a speed move.
Kerrigan raced past Gilbert, slapped the ball out of quarterback Bruce Gradkowski’s hand, and the Redskins recovered the fumble. Kerrigan’s teammates are enjoying the show.
“He’s such a physical specimen,” defensive end Stephen Bowen said. “People just don’t realize how strong he is. He’s strong as hell and he’s also really smart. He understands how they’re going to try to block him. . . . He just knows what he’s doing.”
He’s also much more polished than he was at this stage last season. The angles he takes on the pass rush, his approach against blockers in the running game, his confidence in coverage — Kerrigan has it all working.
“He had to learn a whole different way to play [as a stand-up linebacker],” said Orakpo, who also made the transition. “Not everyone can do it, but he did it in his first year and came in and made plays. His second year, he made plays. Now, the guy is playing phenomenal.”
Kerrigan is making big things happen. And there’s no reason to laugh about that.