In the coming days, Redskins reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler are going to have some fun with numbers—Las Vegas style. Each morning, we’ll pick a player or unit that’s expected to make a major impact for the Redskins in 2015, set an over/under and then make our predictions. We encourage you to play along in the comments section below.
Which Redskins defenders will put up big numbers in 2015?
Ryan Kerrigan, 14.5 sacks—After back-to-back 8.5 sack seasons in 2012 and 2013, the former first round pick enjoyed a breakthrough in 2015, racking up a career-best 13.5 sacks.
El-Bashir—Over: But just barely. Kerrigan is, no doubt, the best player on the Redskins’ defense and I think Joe Barry’s scheme will suit him well. If he stays healthy and, just as important, can avoid the lulls that have affected him in past years, I think he’ll put up 15-16 sacks. A year ago, that would have put him fourth in the league behind $100 million guys Justin Houston and J.J. Watt as well as Elvis Dumervil.
Tandler—Under: Tarik has him just over; I’m going to put him just under with 13 or 14. Remember that he was able to fatten up his sack total last year by getting four against the hapless Jaguars. I don’t think there is such a soft touch on this year’s schedule. I might put him over if I had a little more confidence in the offense to give the defense some big leads to work with. As we saw in the Jacksonville game, that’s when sacks come in bunches.
Kerrigan, 4.5 forced fumbles—After averaging 3.3 forced fumbles in his first three NFL seasons, the Purdue product notched five in 2014, tying the Rams’ Robert Quinn for tops in the league.
El-Bashir—Over: Leading the league in any statistical category two seasons in a row is tough. But forcing fumbles is nothing new for Kerrigan, who led college football in 2009 with seven. It’s a big part of his game. So I don’t see him taking a step back in this department. Put me down for five forced fumbles again in 2015.
Tandler—Under: Once again, it’s the offense that will prevent Kerrigan from knocking the ball out of the quarterback’s hands a half dozen times. While I think it will be improved, I don’t see many two-score leads in the late going, the situations that are made for forced fumbles. I do think, though, that Kerrigan gets four and that he scoops one up and returns it for his first touchdown since 2012.
Trent Murphy, 6.5 sacks—After replacing an injured Brian Orakpo midway through last season, the 2014 second round pick notched all of his 2.5 sacks in a span of five games.
El-Bashir—Under: I’m only going with the under here because we don’t know exactly how much Murphy will play. He’s locked in a tight battle with rookie Preston Smith for starting duties at right outside linebacker. This offseason, Murphy did all the right things. He bulked up, worked to improve his first step and polished his technique. But playing time will be key, and right now I’m not sure he’ll be able to hold off Smith.
Tandler—Over: He was just starting to figure things out when his season ended early with a broken thumb. If he plays 700 or more snaps, and I think he will, seven or eight sacks should be fairly east to obtain.
Chris Culliver, 4.5 interceptions—Last season as a 49er, the free agent acquisition grabbed four interceptions. The entire Redskins’ defense, meantime, produced just seven.
El-Bashir—Over: Culliver gets his hands on a lot of passes. In fact, he was credited with 29 passes defended the past two seasons. And he’s going to get ample opportunity this season playing in a secondary that figures to be tested by opposing quarterbacks—a lot. Put me down for six interceptions.
Tandler—Over: As much as I hate to agree with Tarik, I have to here. There is talk that Culliver will follow the other team’s No. 1 receiver from side to side so he will get plenty of passes thrown in his direction. Like most CB’s he’ll get beaten on occasion but he’ll have plenty of chances to pick off a few. Five should be easy and seven or eight is not out of the question.
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