Making a Good First Impression
When the Washington Redskins were on the clock back in Aprils NFL Draft, most people expected the pick to come in quickly for Missouri Quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
Gabbert had been considered by Draft Gurus as a top 5 pick in this years draft. When he slipped past the Bills and the Titans took Washington QB Jake Locker (who was considered a perfect for the Redskins), it gave Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan the perfect opportunity to draft and groom their next Franchise Quarterback.
The Redskins had been on the wrong end of a long line of failed QB’s for the better part of a decade, and the Donovan McNabb debacle had left most wondering how desperate the Skins were to take a QB.
Leading up to the draft rumors started circling that the Skins were working on a few trade scenarios that would grant them a high as the number two pick in order to draft Gabbert.
Bruce and Mike traded out of the ten spot, swapping picks with Jacksonville and picking up a 2nd round pick in the process. When they were on the clock again they took Perdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan.
Like most, I was pretty shocked at the Kerrigan pick. Don’t get me wrong the Redskins defense needed help with the pass rush, but when you have the opportunity to draft your next franchise QB you HAVE to take it right? Don’t forget (even though it is becoming easy to) Kerrigan was drafted to play OLB but had never played in coverage at Perdue. He was a 4-3 DE that excelled at rushing the passer not dropping back. He would have to learn a completely new position/scheme in the middle of a lockout that kept him from his coaches.
As the lockout progressed and went deeper and deeper into the summer, I figured Kerrigan would be a hugely impacted from the lost time. He was not able to have any contact with coaches and every day lost was crucial time that he could have spent learning the nuances of his new position.
During Camp I fully expected Kerrigan to wander around the field lost (ala Andre Carter last year), but the thing I failed to realize is this; Ryan Kerrigan gets it. He is the prototypical dream player that every coach wishes they had. Sure he has made mistakes but, he is the rare type of player who corrects those mistakes after one time and never makes them again.
The preseason was a mixed bag for Ryan, showing great ability to create pressure on the QB, but also getting hit with penalties that were the direct result of mental errors and honestly a lack of experience playing linebacker. Instead of just reacting Ryan had to become a more cerebral player, understanding what opposing offenses were trying to do.
It did not take long to realize that Kerrigan was going to be getting national media attention, and the attention of the league sooner than later. Going into week one no one really knew what to expect. Would the game be too big, too fast? No doubt Redskins fans were optimistic, but with a rookie you really just never know.
Kerrigan exploded on the scene in week one, with his tip pick six of Eli Manning and a pivotal pass block on the way to the week one victory. Showing a knack for making big plays in the clutch, he had a drive stopping tipped pass against Arizona that gave the Redskins a chance to win the game. In both games Ryan was a force that had to be accounted for.
I remember hearing in April that he was a high motor guy, which is really hard to put a finger on. You can look back at his very solid college accolades including Big Ten Player and Defensive Lineman of the year in 2010 not to mention being a unanimous First Team All American. You look at his pro stats through three games 12 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble and one interception (for a touchdown) and you see the results. But what the stats do not show is that this kid is absolutely relentless.
He NEVER stops… ever. Don’t get me wrong his touchdown play against the Giants was huge, but in my opinion his best play as a pro came on Monday night against Dallas.
While rushing (the single greatest QB to ever live… ever) Tony Romo, Kerrigan realizes he isn’t going to beat the offensive lineman (who appeared to be holding him). Kerrigan has the presence of mind to reach out and swat the ball from Romo’s hand.
This play was an absolute veteran type of play. The kind of play that you see guys who are considered among the best make, instead of just fighting for the sack, he took the opportunity given to him to impact the game and make a play.
No I am not saying that Ryan Kerrigan, three games into his career is the best in the league. I am saying that he has put the league on notice that they have to account for him, and today the NFL recognized him naming him the NFL Rookie of the Month for September.
This is exactly what you want to see out of a first round pick…production. I said earlier this week that the Redskins pass rush could be the best that we have seen since Dexter Manley and Charles Mann, hopefully Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo can enjoy some of the same post game success that they did.