The Washington Redskins started out the season with 15 defensive sacks in the first four games, a clip that put them on pace for a franchise record.
Coming out of the bye week, the team has just seven sacks in the last five games, indicating a dramatic fall-off in effectiveness.
In the process, the team has fallen from the league-leaders to 20th in the NFL in sacks, a trend that can be attributed to several key factors in how teams game-plan the pass rush.
“It’s a factor, and it's been a big factor. We’ve seen a lot of quick throws all season," said outside linebacker
The second factor is the mobility of the opposing quarterbacks. The Redskins started off the season with Michael Vick and Aaron Rodgers before facing Josh McCown, Tony Romo and Christian Ponder down the stretch.
Even when the Redskins are sending pressure, they rarely break contain and run wild.
"I'd say, a lot," Kerrigan told Rick 'Doc' Walker on ESPN 980. "When we do rush, I'd say probably 80-85 percent of the time we have contain.
"We've played a lot of mobile quarterbacks this year, so its even more important that we collapse the pocket and keeping some of the more mobile quarterbacks in the pocket."
One thing that the team has tried to do more often in recent weeks is blitzing more than the standard four pass rushers in key passing downs.
While this has been effective at times, it exposes the back end of the defense and doesn't fit with defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's philosophy on pressure.
"You want to be able to get pressure with your down four," Kerrigan explained. "It’s kind of disappointing for all of us up front, not just Brian [Orakpo] and myself.
"I think we have had to rely too much on blitzes to get pressure and you don’t want to do that."
With the return of
But Orakpo's influence has been limited so far, as he has four sacks in seven games, and one since the bye week, falling well below expectations.
Haslett explained that his mitigation is just part of the other team's game plan since his two-sack day in Oakland.
"[Orakpo] got chipped 22 times [in Denver]. The tight end was there 22 times. So that will tell you something about who everybody thinks, ‘This guy has the ability to get a lot of sacks,'" Haslett said. "They were trying to take Brian out of the game."
LOOKING AHEAD TO SUNDAY:
Last season, Eagles rookie quarterback Nick Foles got his first career start against the Redskins in Washington, yielding disastrous results.
His final stat line vs. an aggressive pass rush: 21-for-46, 204 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions and four sacks. In the Week 16 matchup, he fared not much better, getting sacked five times while turning the ball over twice.
In the third meeting, the Redskins hope to bring the heat on Foles, who has developed into one of the NFL's hottest quarterbacks since taking over for Michael Vick.
"He looks pretty comfortable in that offense," Kerrigan said on Monday. "When he does go back to throw, teams are geared up for the run and they have a chance for the big play in the passing game."
Foles enters Sunday's contest with 16 touchdowns this season and zero interceptions, having been sacked only 10 times in seven games, four starts.
If Kerrigan, Orakpo and Co. are going to make an impact in Sunday's contest, they know the key is hitting home every time they line up to rush.
"The times when we do have winning rushes, the ball is already out. But the other times when the ball isn't already out, we haven't had winning rushes," Kerrigan told ESPN 980. "Teams are throwing the ball quicker on us.
"We've got to win [in the pass rush], win more often and win quicker."