When the Washington Redskins took Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan in the first round of the draft, it wasn't a given that he would start. After all, he was being moved to outside linebacker and had less time to adjust because of the lockout, and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett cautioned training camp that Kerrigan could be eased in.
"I definitely think he's ready to start," Haslett said Thursday.
It's a major change that's a testament to Kerrigan learning on the fly. Perhaps he had a leg up because of his high expectations, but teammates have seen drastic improvement, too.
"He's working each day to get better," middle linebacker London Fletcher said. "He works hard in the meeting room; he works hard on the practice field."
Kerrigan is buoyed by the confidence, but the 23-year-old knows he has earned the opportunity to start Sunday against the New York Giants.
"I think I've just really progressed," he said. "From day one till now, I'm a completely different player and I'm more sure of myself and more natural in the position than in July."
Technique has been better as Kerrigan has learned from Brian Orakpo — who made the same adjustment as a rookie — and others on defense.
But Haslett noted that improvement is going to be an ongoing process, though he's not worried about Kerrigan looking out of place.
"He's a very bright kid who picks things up fast. Sure, he'll make a few mistakes here and there, but he makes them 100 miles an hour," Haslett said. "That and he's got good football savvy. He's got good rush ability. He's the kind of guy you're looking for out there."
Grossman 'beat' Beck
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan had a quick, direct response when asked why Rex Grossman got the nod over John Beck as the Redskins' starter.
"Because he beat him out," Shanahan said. "It was a competition, like we said from the beginning. It was very close — that's why it took so long to decide. And it was neck and neck, and the edge went to Rex. We thought he did better in the competition. It wasn't by a lot, but he definitely won it."
Now the challenge is for Beck to not stall in his progression as an NFL quarterback. He's no longer splitting time, because this is Grossman's show.
"That's crucial with every backup quarterback," Shanahan said. "They just don't get the reps, and they've got to make sure to get the reps somehow — and they're not going to always get it with the team. So they're getting mental reps on the side, they go through it on air, just by themselves, trying to go through it full-speed. We've got to prepare Rex for the game and get him ready to go, and he's just got to find a way to continue to get better and find those reps on his own."
Filing in for Landry
With strong safety LaRon Landry likely out Sunday, the Redskins turn to a committee approach to replace him. Reed Doughty will start in his place, but DeJon Gomes and others will have to step in and fill bigger roles than expected.
The question now becomes, is Gomes ready for that?
"He better be," Haslett said. "I think DeJon, once he gets used to the speed when he's out there, some things don't come fast right off the bat, but once he sees it once, then he's right in tune with everybody."
Haslett said if necessary, he wouldn't hesitate to play hard-hitting cornerback Kevin Barnes at safety, too.
© Copyright 2015 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.