In his 10th season in the NFL, Washington defensive end Ryan Kerrigan has seen his role reduced to a supporting cast instead of a lead attraction.
The four-time Pro Bowl selection has seen his playing time cut to less than 40 percent of the team’s defensive snaps on average this season. Instead, Montez Sweat and rookie Chase Young have been relied upon more heavily as head coach Ron Rivera looks to build a foundation for the future with the team.
Rivera is effusive in his praise toward Kerrigan and what he’s done so far this season. Kerrigan won NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for getting two sacks and a fumble recovery against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1. He’s managed to rack up four sacks in seven games for Washington this season despite the reduced playing time. He had just five sacks in 12 games played for the team last season.
Rivera praised Kerrigan for his willingness to accept the role, his ability to produce when he is called upon, and the impression that has made on some of the younger players on the team.
“I know it’s tough because I know he wants to start,” Rivera said, via Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post. “But you look at the young guys we have there, there’s a role for [him]. This is the role, is that you’re going to get your spot chances and when you get those spot chance, you’ve got to make hay. And he does. And that’s the thing that’s been perfect about this is when he’s been popped out there and we’ve needed to come up, he has.
“That’s the importance of having a vet that sits there and accepts the responsibility and the role. And by doing so, you got Chase [Young] and Montez [Sweat] that sit there and they admire the guy, First of all, they admire him because they watched him play when they were growing up. Second, they admire him for the type of leadership that he’s displaying. Every day he goes out there, he practices the way you’re supposed to, then when he gets the chances to play, he’s made hay. That’s the important thing.”
Kerrigan has been seen as someone who could potentially be available in a trade given he’s in the final year of his contract with Washington and is playing for a new regime that may not see a future for him beyond this season. But at least the moment, Rivera appears happy to have Kerrigan making the most of his role with the team and influencing Sweat and Young.