RICHMOND—Now that Ryan Kerrigan is signed and sealed as a member of the Washington Redskins through the year 2020 he is starting to get excited about playing football.
The fifth-year linebacker missed the entire offseason program after having a procedure done on his knee. He said that he is “champing at the bit” to get out there and get into the action.
Kerrigan said that the contract negotiations weren’t a distraction but because he’s human and there were tens of millions of dollars at stake there had to be something about it in the back of his mind. That can now be eliminated as something that would even have the potential to interfere with his focus on getting ready for the season.
Kerrigan will be setting his sights on learning the revamped Redskins defense. New coordinator Joe Barry is bringing in an aggressive scheme that should fit what Kerrigan—just about any defender, really—likes to do.
“It’s a defense that allows the front guys to play in the opponent’s backfield a lot,” said the team’s first-round pick in 2011. “That's always a great thing when you can put an opponent in a negative yardage situation. That’s the thing that has excited me the most about this new defense.”
As anyone who has followed the Redskins for any length of time knows, the promises of a more aggressive, attacking defense in the spring and summer have usually faded away when the autumn winds start blowing. So we will have to see if Barry sticks with his program.
Even if the attacking nature of the defense is being oversold, Kerrigan should benefit from the revamped defensive line playing in front of him. Nose tackle Terrane Knighton will eat up a lot of space, giving Kerrigan more room to operate. New end Stephen Paea could also clear a path for his teammate to get into the backfield.
But if the defense is more aggressive it should be a lot of fun to watch Kerrigan execute the scheme. Despite the schemes that Jim Haslett ran for his four seasons with the Redskins, Kerrigan has led the team in sacks (38) and forced fumbles (15) since coming to Washington. He also has two interceptions and he returned both for touchdowns.
If he is truly unleashed, to borrow a term from a year ago, Kerrigan could do some serious damage to other teams’ offenses.