With the unfortunate news that linebacker Brian Orakpo and defensive end Adam Carriker will be out for season, second year linebacker Ryan Kerrigan will certainly be looked upon to help lead the defensive front seven.
In his rookie season Kerrigan recorded 70 tackles, four forced fumbles, 7.5 sacks and an interception return for a touchdown in his very first game.
Despite recording a sack in each of the first two contests of the year, Kerrigan knows that he will need to produce at a higher level.
"I've got to definitely raise my game," Kerrigan said. "I haven't played up to my standards the first couple weeks, especially with [Orakpo] down now I have to make even more plays and really play well."
Kerrigan understands that as the Redskins' top pass rusher, he is likely to draw more double teams from opposing blockers.
"If that's the case then whoever is on the other side has to be able to make plays if their singled up just liked I was trying to make plays when I was singled up when [Orakpo] was drawing the double teams," Kerrigan explained. "It's just got to be the next man up kind of thing."
Head Coach Mike Shanahan knows the type of player Kerrigan is and is confident in the leadership he will need to show on the field.
"I think Ryan has been 'the guy' since he has been here," Shanahan said. "I think it is a learning experience for a guy that was a defensive lineman in college to make the transition but he made it very quickly."
Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett agrees with Shanahan's assessment, and said he needs Kerrigan to fill teh void at pass rusher.
"When you lose one of your edge rushers, the other guy can step up and get in that double-digit sacks and get a little bit more pressure," Haslett said. "We'll try to do some different things with him."
Kerrigan is also growing into a leadership role on the defense, and hopes to see his entire unit improve in Week 3,
The Rams converted seven-of-12 third down opportunities against the Redskins defense last week. Kerrigan said failing to get off the field in third-down situations was one of the reasons the game got away.
"It's just been little things. It's missed tackles; it's not being in your gaps. Those are correctable things," Kerrigan said. "We've had some unfortunate penalties. We just have to be smarter, be more disciplined and just not make the penalties."
On Sunday, the Redskins welcome the Bengals to town for the season home opener. Kerrigan relishes the opportunity to make big plays in front of a home crowd.
"It's always fun to come out and play your first home game of the year especially being on the road and coming off a tough loss," Kerrigan said. "It'll be fun getting in FedExField and having our home fans at our back."