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A New Star Rising in the District

Ryan Kerrigan has become a star in the much maligned Redskins Defense

Ryan Kerrigan has become a star in the much maligned Redskins Defense

He’s a former first round pick. He’s been to the Pro Bowl. He’s led his current team — the one that drafted him — in sacks. He had a “pick 6” interception returned for a touchdown in first career start. And he plays for the Redskins.

Sounds like a superstar player, right?

The player I am describing is not Brian Orakpo, DeAngelo Hall, or London Fletcher. Rather, it’s Ryan Kerrigan, a player whom some may not (yet) consider a super star, but rather a great player still learning the nuances of the 3-4 defense.

But, with a quarter of the 2013 season already completed, #91 is quickly becoming the superstar that his numbers suggest.

Through four games this season, Kerrigan has notched five sacks and caused havoc around the ball. Even though Washington’s defense has been sub-par at best, Kerrigan offers a bright spot for the remainder of the season.

So what was the catalyst for Kerrigan’s ascent into “Sunday stud?” There are three key reasons I believe the former Purdue All-American has excelled this season:

1. Kerrigan is the “little (but big) engine that could”. As a rookie, Kerrigan did not miss a single snap on defense. A stat he carried well into his second season with the Redskins. He was able to notch a career high 64 tackles and 7.5 sacks in a defense where he was learning on the fly.

Entering his second year, he was able to improve on his sack total and improve in pass coverage allowing the Redskins defense to thrive in the second half of the season.

2. His knowledge of the defense. Every player and coach in the league will tell you how important continuity is for a team. Kerrigan is entering his third season as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme under Jim Haslett and is clearly flourishing.

The 3-4 is built around a solid nose tackle and two pass rushing outside linebackers. With a full understanding of the defense and a broadening rage of moves, #91 is on pace for a career year. As an added bonus, Kerrigan has scored a touchdown in each of the last two seasons because he played his assignment so well. Now, we’re just waiting for this year’s touchdown (although one could argue the defensive touchdown against the Eagles was all him).

3. Finally, Kerrigan is becoming such a feared force because of the return of Brian Orakpo. As mentioned, the 3-4 thrives on its outside linebackers getting after the quarterback. Kerrigan learned last year to deal with double teams routinely without any help on the opposite side. This year, with the return of another first round pick on the other side, he is free to rush the quarterback. Defenses have to pick and choose whom they are going to double. Advantage Redskins.

Ryan Kerrigan was able to set a career high a year ago in sacks. He registered 8.5 with virtually no help on the other side. With Orakpo patrolling the other side, #91 has 5 through just 4 games. Meaning, for those keeping score at home, he needs 3.5 more in his final 12 games to set a new career high.

Look out NFL, there is a star rising in Washington outside of the much-discussed Robert Griffin III. His name is Ryan Kerrigan, and he’s movin’ on up in the world of football.

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