It’s never easy starting a new job.
New faces and new places. A new culture to adapt to, a new standard to meet.
Now imagine you’re
Tough task? You bet.
Kerrigan – the Redskins’ first-round draft pick (16th overall) in last April’s NFL Draft – exceeded expectations in his transition from a college defensive end to an NFL outside linebacker.
So much so that Kerrigan was on the field for every defensive snap in his rookie campaign.
Kerrigan played in all 16 games and posted 70 tackles, 7.5 sacks, a team-best 42 quarterback pressures and four forced fumbles.
He also had an interception in his first NFL game, grabbing a batted Eli Manning pass, breaking free of a tackle and racing nine yards for a touchdown in the Redskins’ 28-14 season-opening win.
The play showcased Kerrigan’s athleticism and seemingly non-stop motor.
“I’m very impressed,” fellow outside linebacker
Upon joining the Redskins, Kerrigan embraced the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker.
He was a playmaker at defensive end for Purdue, leading the Big Ten last year with 12.5 sacks, 26 tackles for a loss and five forced fumbles.
Instead of questioning the move and whether it was a good fit for him, Kerrigan adapted.
He had to learn to rush the passer standing up, from a 2-point stance. At the line of scrimmage, he had to identify when he should drop back in coverage on a tight end or running back.
“It’s just a whole different animal than defensive end,” he said. “You’re talking about coming out of a 2-point stance versus a 3-point stance. I had to get my stance right so I could be explosive off the line. Of course, you have to look at the coverage factor, which is probably one of the biggest aspects of playing linebacker.”
After the season, Kerrigan said he was looking forward to improving his game in the offseason. He has returned to Muncie, Ind., his hometown, to work out. He has been a regular presence at events in Indianapolis this week in advance of Super Bowl XLVI.
“I’m still getting comfortable rushing out of a 2-point stance, and I feel like I’ll make more strides,” he said. “The only way I do that is through more reps, so I have to work on that through the offseason and make that a point of emphasis.”
Kerrigan recorded just one sack in the Redskins’ final five games. Did offensive linemen catch on to his moves?
He may need to work on diversifying his pass rush moves as well.
“I thought I did some good things, but I don’t think I was as consistent as I would have liked to have been,” he said. "I could have rushed the passer better in a lot of games and obviously played better in coverage."
Overall, the Redskins finished with 41 sacks, tied for 10th in the league. Upgrading the pass rush was a top priority in last year’s draft and part of that included improving blitz options to create more pressure on quarterbacks.
“We needed somebody opposite [Orakpo] on the other side, to [bring] some pressure,” head coach Mike Shanahan said. “Ryan gives us that ability to beat tight ends, beat backs, and obviously beat tackles. When you look at him, I think he fit into our system extremely well.”
In preseason, some compared Kerrigan to Green Bay Packers pass rushing linebacker Clay Matthews. He has also heard comparisons to Detroit Lions defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch and Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Aaron Kampman.
Kerrigan stops short of comparing himself to anyone, though.
“I don’t really try to model my game after anyone in particular,” he said. “I just try to go out there and do what I do, and that’s play hard and play physical.”