Hoping to maximize the talents and potential of pass-rushers Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo, the Redskins added a pass-rushing technician to their coaching staff in Brian Baker this offseason. Orakpo had his season cut short by injury, but Kerrigan has enjoyed a career season, posting 13.5 sacks, 50 solo tackles and five forced fumbles.
Kerrigan also will likely surpass his best total tackle tally this weekend. He recorded 66 last season, and has 62 with one game remaining.
Kerrigan credits his production to Baker’s tutelage.
“In the offseason, he has really brought some things to light,” Kerrigan said. “Ever since, I’ve tried to correct those – mainly my angle to the quarterback, and I think that has paid big dividends.”
Kerrigan also worked to develop better counter moves. His forte is his strength, and he has been known primarily as a power rusher. But this offseason, Baker helped the fourth-year veteran learn ways to better feel out his opponent and catch him off balance when he sets up, bracing for Kerrigan’s power moves.
Kerrigan’s 13.5 sacks rank fifth in the NFL. Kansas City’s Justin Houston leads the league with 18, Houston’s J.J. Watt follows with 17.5, Baltimore’s Elvis Dumervil has 17 and Philadelphia’s Connor Barwin has 14.5.
Kerrigan this week was passed over for the initial Pro Bowl selections, but was named an alternate. He described the snub as disappointing, but not entirely surprising considering the Redskins’ lack of wins.
Kerrigan has nonetheless earned the respect of his opponents.
“I think Ryan’s their best defensive player. I think it shows when you look at the tape earlier this year, the same thing now,” Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said. “I think he just exemplifies what you want probably in a football player, a guy who can rush the passer, can drop into coverage, who plays the run well, very good on his assignment. He just does a great job of when he’s going one direction, he’ll turn and basically his change of direction is good and he’ll give you a lot of effort to the ball even if it’s behind him. Things like that are what you’re looking for and the obvious one is that he can get to the quarterback and create disruption in the pass game.
“He’s an outstanding talent and you’ve got to prepare for him. He’s just a great challenge each week and everybody wants a guy like that on their team.”
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