For the first time in his decade-long NFL career, pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan is not a starter for the Washington Football Team.
Kerrigan has played just 36% of Washington's defensive snaps through seven weeks of the season, by far the lowest mark of his career. Still, in his limited time on the field, the four-time Pro Bowler has found a way to be productive, as his four sacks are good for the second-most on the team, trailing only Montez Sweat.
In an exclusive 1-on-1 interview with NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay, Washington defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio called it "unrealistic" for Kerrigan to play the majority of defensive snaps each game at this point in his career, but said that the 32-year-old is making the most of his opportunities.
"I think at this point in his career, to ask him to go out there and play 50 snaps is unrealistic," Del Rio said. "But he certainly is impactful in the snaps that he's given."
Kerrigan's dip in snaps is not so much an indictment on the pass rusher himself. Rather, it's a testament to how deep the Burgundy and Gold's defensive front is, led by Sweat and No. 2 overall pick Chase Young.
Sweat has been excellent in his second season for Washington, as his five sacks and 11 quarterback hits are the highest marks on the team. Young's sack total (2.5) is not nearly an indicator of just how disruptive he's been for Washington thus far this season. The rookie has been as good as advertised and impacts the game in multiple ways that aren't seen in the box score.
"I think [Kerrigan] understands that he has two really talented guys that happen to be playing in front of him," Del Rio said. "But he is still in the mix and he is still getting his opportunities, and he is making the most of them."
Kerrigan's impact on Washington goes a lot further than just on the field.
"I always talk about what a pro he is because of the way he prepares and the way he conducts himself and the teammate he is and all those kinds of things because it’s an example of what you want," Del Rio said.
The veteran pass rusher has also been an incredible mentor for both Sweat and Young. Numerous times over the past few months, both of them have raved about Kerrigan.
As Del Rio and head coach Ron Rivera attempt to change the culture in Washington, it's players like Kerrigan they want to have around to help mentor the youth of this roster.
“I don’t know that you can put a value on it. It’s exceptionally important," Del Rio said on how leaders like Kerrigan can help change the culture in Washington.
"I think the impact for young guys like Chase Young and Montez Sweat to be able to see those guys and for those guys to see his example, it’s so valuable it’s hard to put words to it."