Ryan Kerrigan continued his recent surge in the sack dept. Sunday in Chicago and, in the process, joined some pretty elite company.
Kerrigan recorded a sack, a tackle for loss and four quarterback pressures in the Redskins’ 24-21 victory over the Bears. The sack was Kerrigan’s fourth in four games, boosted his season total to 7.5 and made him just the fifth player in NFL history to record at least 7.5 sacks in each of his first 5 NFL seasons. The others on that list? DeMarcus Ware, Jared Allen, Derrick Thomas and Reggie White.
Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said Kerrigan's improving health likely has something to do with his improving stats.
“He did miss some [sack] opportunities early on [in the season], plus he missed all of preseason [after getting his knee scoped],” Gruden said Monday. “We were trying to rest him with his knee and all that stuff. [But] I think he’s getting back in the flow.”
Kerrigan’s sack came early in the third quarter with the Redskins ahead 14-7. On the play, he simply beat Bears tackle Kyle Long around the outside and took down Jay Cutler before the quarterback had time to react.
Kerrigan’s sack total ties him with Cliff Avril, Justin Houston and Whitney Mercilus for 14th most in the league. Kerrigan has also recorded 18 quarterback pressures the past four games, giving him 39 for the season, according to ProFootballFocus.com. That puts him sixth among all 3-4 outside linebackers behind Tamba Hali, Khalil Mack, Houston, Pernell McPhee and Von Miller.
But, as Gruden said, sacks and pressures aren’t the only numbers the Redskins use to measure Kerrigan’s value.
“He’s a consistent player for us,” Gruden said. “He’s very good in the running game, and like I’ve said before, it’s not about his sacks. His presence is felt quite often throughout the course of a football game.”
Gruden added: “In the running game, you see him on the backside making tackles, on the frontside forcing the ball back into our big guys. He does a great job in the running game. In the passing game, he is occupying chip blocks, which is taking receivers out of the [play] and he’s doing a good job of making the quarterback step up to other people.”
One such play came during a critical juncture late in the fourth quarter. With the Bears facing a third-and-seven in Redskins’ territory, Kerrigan bull-rushed the left tackle, forcing Cutler to step up into an oncoming Chris Baker and Preston Smith. Cutler rushed the pass, which fell incomplete and left the Bears with a 50-yard field goal attempt. Which, of course, Robbie Gould missed to preserve the win.
“I like where Ryan is at,” Gruden said. “He is getting better and better and I think he is feeling healthier and healthier as the season is going on.”