Redskins' Kerrigan feeling pressure

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Photo - Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan has 41Ú2 sacks midway through his second season but has had only one since Week 4.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan has 41Ú2 sacks midway through his second season but has had only one since Week 4.
Sports,NFL,Redskins,John Keim

ASHBURN -- Ryan Kerrigan has improved against the pass, which he showed again last week. He doesn't drop into coverage all that often, but against Pittsburgh he batted down a pass and drilled a back on a short catch. He's stout against the run, too, shedding tight end blocks and forcing runners to cut inside.

The Redskins need all of that. They also need a pass rush, and Kerrigan has been, well, quiet in that area. He recorded a sack vs. Pittsburgh, but it came off a failed receiver end around pass. That means he hasn't sacked a quarterback since Week 4 vs. Tampa Bay.

"In the three games I went without a sack, I was frustrated," Kerrigan said. "Last week [vs. Pittsburgh] I left a couple on the field. There's definitely a greater sense of urgency. That sense has been there even more. Now I need to pick it up."

It's certainly not that Kerrigan is playing poorly. But the Redskins' defense is struggling and needs to find answers, particularly to help their coverage. The secondary is getting criticized for the success of the opposition's passing attack -- opposing quarterbacks have a 95.0 passer rating against Washington.

But to blame only the coverage is difficult when there is little pass rush. Kerrigan leads the Redskins with 4? sacks; no one else has more than 1?. Clearly Kerrigan needs others to contribute. And it doesn't help that Brian Orakpo is sidelined, taking away another defender who drew the attention of the offense.

"He's going to draw attention because he's the guy," Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said of Kerrigan. "He'll have to overcome some things. We've moved him inside and doing different things with him, but when you're the guy, they find ways to try and neutralize you.

"He still gets pressure in different ways. Obviously it's a lot easier last year when you had 'Rak running around."

In the last six games minus Orakpo, Kerrigan has 2? sacks. One NFL coach called Kerrigan a high-effort player who needs others to collapse the pocket for him before his relentless style takes over. Against Tampa Bay, for example, that's how he got one sack when the interior collapsed the pocket and outside linebacker Chris Wilson had deep penetration and prevented quarterback Josh Freeman from moving anywhere. Kerrigan finished the play by corralling him from behind.

The Redskins want to move Kerrigan around more, but he rushed from the left side every time but one vs. Pittsburgh. He had 14 one-on-one rushes, was double-teamed six times and received credit for one quarterback hurry. The Redskins say teams slide their protection to his side often. In other games he has moved around more -- his half-sack vs. Cincinnati came when he lined up two yards off the left guard, ran at the left tackle with full force, stunned him and slid inside.

Kerrigan, who has just one sack this year against a right tackle, said he hasn't noticed tackles playing him any differently.

"I feel I'm getting good push and working my moves well," he said. "It's just little technical things like getting hands off me, being more violent at the end of the rush and doing it quicker. That's ultimately been the problem. I've been too slow doing it. I have to react quicker and get off blocks quicker."

Players also know sacks often come in bunches -- and Kerrigan is only three sacks behind last year's total. Kerrigan wants to be considered an all-around linebacker. He knows another truth.

"Ultimately," he said, "I need to get to the quarterback more."

jkeim@washingtonexaminer.com

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