- The Washington Times - Monday, June 15, 2020

When Ryan Kerrigan watches footage of his games from 2019, the Redskins’ edge rusher sees the mistakes. There were too many instances in which he failed to use proper technique and too many poor angles when rushing the quarterback, he said.

The 31-year-old got away from fundamentals.

“What I did last year,” Kerrigan said, “was definitely not what I ever want to put on film again.”

The misfires resulted in the worst year of his career. Kerrigan mustered just 5½ sacks — a career low — and had only 23 hurries, tied for 53rd in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. 

Oh, and Kerrigan saw his ironman streak of 139 straight games end due to a concussion. He later ended the season on injured reserve with a calf injury, missing the last three games. He played 12 games total. 

Kerrigan’s drop in production, along with the Redskins’ conspicuous selections of  first-round pass rushers Chase Young and Montez Sweat in consecutive drafts, is why the veteran’s long-term future with the franchise is a major question mark entering the last year of his contract.

But there’s always the possibility that Young’s arrival and Sweat’s emergence could be what Kerrigan needs. 

With the defensive line posed to the team’s strength, Kerrigan is bound to see less attention from opposing offensive lineman and could get to the quarterback more often.

Kerrigan is still confident in his abilities. 

“I know how I feel,” Kerrigan said. “I know what I can do.”

Throughout the offseason, Washington’s coaches have been coy as to what type of role Kerrigan will have in 2020. Coach Ron Rivera has said Kerrigan is “most certainly” part of the team’s plans, but has emphasized a competition to determine playing time. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio noted tough choices would have to be made. “It is kind of like a basketball team not having enough balls to go around,” he said.

In recent years, the Redskins were already scaling back Kerrigan’s workload. He played less than 80% of the team’s snaps each of the last four seasons after being on the field for more than 90% of the defense’s plays over his first four years. 

Former coach Jay Gruden and his staff were fans of using a rotation for the defensive line to keep players fresh in a 16-game season.

Kerrigan will have to share time with Young, Sweat and even possibly third-year linebacker Ryan Anderson. If Kerrigan does see fewer snaps, safety Landon Collins said he thinks Kerrigan could stand to benefit from it.

“We know when Ryan Kerrigan has rested legs, we know what he can do,” Collins said.

Kerrigan is just one-and-a-half sacks short of surpassing Dexter Manley to become Washington’s all-time sack leader. Since being drafted in 2011, Kerrigan has been one of the most consistent rushers in the NFL with the fourth-most sacks (90) in that time.

He’s also been. for many inside and outside of the team, the face of the Redskins’ defense.

The Redskins have yet to say if they’ll extend Kerrigan’s contract beyond this season. The 31-year-old, who has said he wants to stay for “the long haul,” is due to make $11.5 million in 2020.

And Kerrigan said he “definitely” plans to play a big role, adding that he’s looking forward to the team’s switch to a 4-3 scheme that emphasizes edge rushers getting after the quarterback over dropping back into coverage.

He said he understands why fans are excited about what Young could mean to the franchise.

““Fans should be excited about guys like Chase. (Heck), if I had the No. 2 pick I would have done the same thing,” he said.

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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