Ryan Kerrigan is one of the best players in Washington franchise history and he’ll be playing his former team on Tuesday night.
The fact that it isn’t a major storyline should tell you all you need to know about his 2021 season. Because Kerrigan, 33, has become an absolute afterthought for the Eagles this year. Most hopes of him being a major contributor in the Eagles’ defense vanished long ago.
But there are still four games left with the Eagles fighting for a playoff spot and he can salvage his season with a good stretch run, starting with his former team on Tuesday night.
“It’s been challenging at times because the production hasn’t been what I want it to be and what I’m accustomed to doing,” Kerrigan said. “So that’s been frustrating, that’s been challenging. But I’m proud of myself because I haven’t thrown in the towel or said, ‘this just isn’t working out.’ I’ve kept working, I’ve stuck to working hard and doing what I feel can put me in a good position to make plays. I gotta make them ultimately.”
Kerrigan on Friday downplayed the coming matchup against the team that drafted him in the first-round in 2011out of Purdue. But he did admit it’ll be good to catch up with some of his former teammates.
Through the first 13 games of this season, Kerrigan has played 266 defensive snaps (31%) and doesn’t have much of anything to show for it. His stat line is thin: 3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 2 quarterback hits, 0 sacks.
Earlier this season, defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon defended Kerrigan’s lack of statistical production.
But for a guy that accumulated 95 1/2 sacks during his 10 years in Washington, there’s no way around it: This year has been incredibly disappointing.
Kerrigan says he isn’t exactly sure why the production hasn’t been there for him in 2021 but he feels like he’s gotten close to making a few plays — “where I’m right there and it ultimately hasn’t happened” — that just haven’t worked out for him.
Kerrigan’s struggles really began in training camp, when he injured his thumb and needed surgery. He missed most of the summer and he had to play the early portion of the season with a cast. But the cast and the wrapping are long gone and the production still hasn’t followed.
And when Brandon Graham went down with a torn Achilles, you would have expected Kerrigan to play more but he’s actually played less. He played 49% of the Eagles’ defensive snaps in Week 1 but hasn’t played nearly that much in months.
These are trying times for a player who was great not that long ago.
But Kerrigan has tried to approach his struggles this season with a positive outlook. There are lessons in this season, his wife keeps reminding him. And they’re lessons he wants to teach to his children one day.
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“Just because the results you want aren’t there, it doesn’t mean you throw in the towel,” he said. “This is something that I’m going to try to impart to my daughters later in life, if they’re ever having a tough time or whatnot. Just because what you haven’t been getting what you want exactly, it doesn’t mean you just give up and say, ‘the hell with this.’ You gotta keep working.”
The Eagles signed Kerrigan to a one-year, $2.5 million deal this offseason. While they knew they weren’t getting the guy who was once a four-time Pro Bowler and had multiple seasons with 10+ sacks, they thought they’d get a productive player.
It hasn’t worked out that way.
But Kerrigan can erase all that disappointment if he makes a few plays down the stretch.
“What I learned last year, is when you’re in this role and you’re not playing the lion’s share, is you really gotta strike when your opportunities are there,” Kerrigan said. “I haven’t been able to do that so far this year. But there’s still four games and four big division games left. So I’m hoping that I can make some hay down this backstretch.”