Player: Ryan Kerrigan
Age: 28 on Aug. 16
Contract Status: Four years left on a five-year deal
Preseason buzz: Kerrigan proved himself during his first four seasons after being drafted in 2011, and he was rewarded with a five-year, $57.5 million contract last offseason. Kerrigan saw his sack totals rise or stay the same in each of his first four seasons, but the 13.5 total he recorded in 2014 was going to be hard to top. There wasn’t as much preseason buzz as there were was expectations for him to continue playing at a high level.
Ended 2015 as: Not surprisingly, the team’s leading pass rusher, with 9.5 sacks on the season. Kerrigan’s sack total dropped by four from the previous season, but that’s not necessarily an indicator of a lesser performance. For one, he had more help from his teammates. Preston Smith recorded eight sacks in his rookie season, and Chris Baker chipped in with six of his own. Kerrigan was also hampered by injuries, most notably the broken right hand that he suffered against the Bucs in Week 8. Still, Kerrigan started all 16 games and recorded six of his 9.5 sacks in the final seven weeks of the regular season. He now has five full seasons under his belt without ever missing a contest.
Season highs: Kerrigan had brought consistent pressure in the early stages of the season, but he was having trouble finishing and actually taking down opposing quarterbacks. That changed when it mattered most, and his efforts helped Washington close out the season strong en route to clinching the NFC East division title. Kerrigan’s two-sack effort during the Week 12 win over the Giants was perhaps his best performance of the season, and it came at a crucial point in the season against the Redskins’ closest competitor in the title race.
Season lows: Although it was apparent to anyone watching that Kerrigan was consistently hurrying opposing quarterbacks, the statistics became hard to ignore when he had just 3.5 sacks through the first nine games of the season. He went a full month without recording a single sack before ultimately turning things around in Week 11 against the Panthers.
Grade: B+. As much as he might deserve an A for effort, it took Kerrigan too long to start accruing sacks. He’s capable of better production, which ties into his 2016 expectations.
2016 expectations: To pick up where he left off last season, and not let up. In order for that to happen, Kerrigan must remain fully healthy and do what’s in his power to avoid injury. His sack drought last season was brief reason for concern, but it appeared to be a freak occurrence given the pressure he was generating. Look for his sack total to rise in 2016.
Offseason low: The former Purdue standout receives a special category for a standout Twitter reaction after the Boilermakers brutal collapse in a double-overtime loss to 12th seeded Arkansas-Little Rock in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Dan Roth is a freelance sportswriter and Breaking Burgundy contributor. Follow Dan on Twitter @DanRothDC.
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