Washington Redskins edge rusher Ryan Kerrigan has been overlooked his entire career. Is this the year that he and Preston Smith emerge as a top edge rushing unit with an improved interior line?
A player who can rush the edge of the offensive line is one of the most important players in football. Ultimately, in today’s modern NFL, it comes down to two things: Finding a way to pass the ball efficiently, and finding a way to get to the passer.
When it comes to getting to the passer, Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith have been one of the more underrated duos in recent years. Last year, the two Washington Redskins edge rushers combined for 21.0 sacks. Since Smith was drafted, over three seasons, the two have combined for 54.0 sacks. They’ve formed a disruptive duo, to say the least. And in 2018, there’s reason to believe they’ll only get better.
On defense, it all starts with the defensive line. Having an interior that can generate pressure is a key to success. Penetrating up the middle can flush the quarterback out to the edges, where he’s an easier target for rushers like Kerrigan and Smith coming off the edge. Collapsing the pocket can also assist the edge defenders at pinching the line, swallowing up the quarterback, as we saw the Washington Redskins do multiple times against Derek Carr and the Raiders in 2017.
With Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis both coming back at full health, Anthony Lanier continuing to improve, and Daron Payne arriving in D.C. with immense pass rushing potential, the Washington Redskins line is easily improved from last year, and if the unit can stay healthy, it offers great bounty for an edge rushing unit that’s a disruptive line away from breaking out and gaining recognition across the league.
In addition to the outside factors, Preston Smith is also due for a breakout year with the Washington Redskins. The former second-round pick has always been close, but now, with the pieces coming together around him Smith has the length and athleticism to take a leap in his fourth season. Motivated by a contract year, we could see Smith reap the rewards from a promising situation. Greg Manusky loves to dial up pressure, and he should have no trouble doing so with this group. Kerrigan and Smith already form one of the most underrated duos in NFL. Hopefully, by the end of the season, that will be different.