Ryan Kerrigan and understanding the role of a defensive end
Yesterday, Eagles fans were up in arms about Jonathan Gannon’s comments about defensive end Ryan Kerrigan. Kerrigan was brought on as a veteran depth piece for the Eagles. Following the loss of Brandon Graham, Kerrigan has seen more playtime. As a result, many have criticized his lack of production, having just one tackle through six games.
When discussing Ryan Kerrigan ahead of their game against the Raiders on Sunday, here is what Jonathan Gannon had to say.
“On the stat sheet you mean? Because in my opinion, he has been productive.
How would I quantify that is he lines up, he gets aligned the correct way, he plays with his eyes the right way, he’s asked to do the techniques that we’re asking him to do, and he’s playing winning football within his role.
What I mean by that is, like somebody that makes a tackle on a run, well, [DE] Ryan [Kerrigan] helped that guy make that tackle by how he crushed the block. I don’t always look at – with [DT] Fletcher [Cox] moving back a couple weeks, like he’s balling.
Now, the stat sheet might not jump out at you and be like, ‘Well, this guy doesn’t have ten sacks or six, whatever TFLs,’ this and that, but within the framework of what we’re asking those guys to do, they’re being productive.“
I genuinely don’t know why people are up in arms about this quote. Just exactly like he said in the quote, Fletcher Cox has been notorious for doing this for the majority of his career and this season. I get it. It’s frustrating to look at the stat sheet and see emptiness after so many games. But you have to look at the bigger picture.
An excellent defensive end holds outside contain and melts down his block, which means he lets nothing outside of him and forces everything up the middle. If Kerrigan gets the offensive tackle upfield, the running back won’t go outside of him, meaning Kerrigan won’t get the tackle but shuts down the play.
Now Ryan Kerrigan can’t control the linebackers’ inability to finish the tackle, but he’s doing what is asked of him 1000%. At the same time Kerrigan can’t rip inside the OT and make the play because 1: he’s not prime J.J. Watt, and 2: Kerrigan needs to hold that contain still until the running back gets upfield.
If you want Kerrigan to play hero ball? Fine, go ahead. Just don’t be mad when the running back bounced it outside for a touchdown because you wanted him to stuff the stat sheet. Pro Football Focus has Ryan Kerrigan with a 60.3 grade on defense with a 70.4 in tackling. This isn’t pretty, but it’s not bad. Every grade of Kerrigan’s on defense outside of pass rush is better than in Washington since 2019.
Compared to the rest of the Eagles defense, Ryan Kerrigan grades out better than Fletcher Cox, Genard Avery, Anthony Harris, Alex Singleton, and Eric Wilson. For reference, Ryan Kerrigan has played 152 snaps through six games and is on pace for 430, just five more than he had last year and 200 less than 2019. Also, we are talking about a 33-year old edge rusher the team signed to a one-year deal right before the summer.
Now I agree he isn’t playing like a star, but this is what he was paid to do. The Eagles didn’t sign 2016 Ryan Kerrigan this offseason. They brought in someone smart to do little things that don’t come up on the stat sheets. If things get worse over time, that is a different story, but for now, Kerrigan is doing his job for the Eagles.
Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports