Simply put, Ryan Kerrigan has been one of the best pass rushers in the NFL over the past decade.
Kerrigan has accumulated 90 sacks since his debut in 2011; only three players -- J.J. Watt, Chandler Jones and Von Miller -- have more over that span. He's has been named to the Pro Bowl four times and finished with double-digit sacks just as many times. He's been as durable as they come, evident by the 139 consecutive games he started.
For the past eight seasons, Kerrigan has been Washington's most feared defensive player, week in and week out. Sure, he's played alongside some incredible talent such as Brian Orakpo, London Fletcher, DeAngelo Hall and others; but since 2012, Kerrigan's second season in the league, he's been the Burgundy and Gold's best -- and most consistent -- defensive player.
However, in 2020, that might no longer be the case. Enter, Chase Young.
Washington used the second overall pick on the Ohio State pass rusher, who's considered a generational prospect by many. Although Young has yet to play a snap for the Burgundy and Gold, he's likely already the most talented piece of a young, stacked defensive front the Redskins have invested multiple first-round picks into.
Kerrigan knows moving forward, much of the attention from opponents will be directed towards Young, and the veteran pass rusher completely understands why.
"Fans should be excited about guys like Chase," Kerrigan said to local media via Zoom on Thursday. "[Heck], if I had the number two pick I would have done the same thing."
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Kerrigan has yet to meet Young in person, as the coronavirus pandemic ended any hope of teams holding normal offseason activities. But from the Redskins virtual offseason program, Kerrigan admitted he's been impressed with Young so far.
"Chase has been really impressive. He seems to pick up the defense pretty well so far," Kerrigan said. "That’s what I’m always usually impressed with a lot of guys when they come in the league is how quickly they can pick things up mentally. You know the physical talent is there but can they pick things up mentally. I think Chase has shown that so far."
Kerrigan is coming off the worst season of his career, finishing with a career-low 5.5 sacks. After starting 139 consecutive games for Washington, he was sidelined with an injury for the first time in his NFL tenure.
Despite his rough showing last season, the pass rusher still believes he has plenty in the tank and that the 2019 season was more of a fluke than anything else.
"I know how I feel, I know what I can do. What I did last year was definitely not what I ever want to put on film again," Kerrigan said. "I got away from some fundamental things that really prevented me from being productive like I usually am."
This offseason, the Redskins made major organizational changes, most notably hiring head coach Ron Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. The two have been tasked with turning around the culture in Redskins Park -- a culture that has experienced far more losing than winning over the past two decades.
While Kerrigan believes he can still be a productive player, he understands why the organization drafted Young as the franchise attempts to turn the culture around.
"I think our fans and everyone should be excited about our young guys and new coaches we’re bringing in," Kerrigan said. "I think that’s, like I said, kind of the way the NFL works. When your team isn’t delivering the way you want to, they look for new reasons to be excited and those are very legitimate reasons to be excited."
Kerrigan is coming off a down year, entering the final year of his deal, and there's a new coaching staff coming in. Take these factors into consideration and it would've been understandable if Rivera had decided to part ways with the pass rusher. However, the head coach has repeatedly said that Kerrigan is in the team's plan for 2020, and he expects the veteran pass rusher to have a valuable role.
"I'm hoping to be a big part of this team and this defense," Kerrigan said.
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Between Young's arrival and the growth of second-year veteran Montez Sweat, there's a good chance Kerrigan sees fewer snaps than he has in years past. The veteran explained he's unsure how the defensive line rotation will shake out, but he's prepared to have a significant impact when he's on the field.
"I guess we’ll just see how it plays out when the game times come," Kerrigan said. "Rotations and what not are kind of largely dictated by what’s going on in the game and different things like that. I’m hoping to make as many plays as possible. I think this defense will give us that opportunity up front."
Between Young, Sweat and himself, Kerrigan knows this unit has the chance to be Washington's best, and most disruptive, next season.
"We’ve got the talent there, everyone knows what Chase can do," Kerrigan said. "Sweat, I think he’s an extremely talented guy, he finished strong last year. We’ve got a chance to be pretty effective and pretty productive on the edge...We’ve got to go out there and prove it."
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