As the Redskins get back to work in preparation for the 2018 season, Pro Bowl linebacker Ryan Kerrigan is ready to see the linebackers set the tempo.
Despite some turnover on defense for the Washington Redskins this offseason, linebacker Ryan Kerrigan has high hopes for his group in 2018.
Kerrigan, who is entering his eighth year with the Redskins, recorded a team-leading 13 sacks last season, along with a pass defended and an interception returned for a touchdown in the regular season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The three-time Pro Bowler is back at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va., for offseason workouts and ready to get to work with his teammates.
Kerrigan is particularly excited about the return of two players who missed the end of last season - linebackers Mason Foster and Zach Brown.
Foster totaled 31 total tackles, a pass defended, and a game-sealing interception in an injury-shortened 2017 campaign.
Foster was re-signed in the offseason, a move that Kerrigan was happy the team made.
"He started last year, but obviously got his season cut short with an injury," Kerrigan said, "so I'm really excited to see him with a full season and being healthy. Because he's a heck of a player and he was off to a great start last year."
Fellow linebacker Brown will also return this year after missing the final three games of 2017 due to injuries.
He led the Redskins last season with 127 total tackles, adding 2.5 sacks and two passes defended.
Kerrigan is ready to have his teammate back on the field, praising everything Brown brings to the table.
"It's huge," Kerrigan said. "He obviously was having a tremendous season, and then, you know, unfortunately missed the last three or four games with injury. I think [Brown] still was Top 4 in the NFL in tackles. So that just goes to show you the kind of production he brings to the table. You've got to have big thumpers in the middle of the defense that can run, and that's exactly what he is."
Washington will also be able to lean on fourth-year linebacker Preston Smith this season.
A 2014 second-round selection, Smith racked up 42 total tackles, eight sacks, three passes defended, two interceptions and a forced fumble last year.
Entering the last year of his rookie deal, Kerrigan believes Smith is "primed for a real big year."
"I mean, he's shown a lot of ability these first three years, he's been quite productive," Kerrigan said. "But I think this is the year where he can really make a name for himself, really be an impact, a really dominant player. I'm excited to see that, I know he's been working hard this offseason. I think this is the year where Preston takes that next step."
Ryan Anderson could have more of an impact as his role increases with the Redskins following the departures of Trent Murphy and Junior Galette. Kerrigan has seen progress from Anderson over the past year, including personal growth that should translate over to the field this year.
"I think, like you said, his mentality and his mindset changed," Kerrigan said. "He kind of had a better understanding of how he does need to take care of himself and how he does need to work in the weight room and how he needs to eat when he's not at the facility. I think just looking at him today, you can tell there's been a change there in a good way. That's not to say that he was doing the wrong things before, but I think he's just doing the right things more frequently and with more consistency. Those daily decisions that he's making to do things that are taking care of his body, those are paying off and I think will continue to pay off for him."
Getting Anderson more involved in the linebacker rotation would be a big help for the defense. Kerrigan spoke highly of Anderson's skillset and his ability to both contain the run and rush the passer.
"In the Seattle game, he had a number of nice pressures in the opportunities that he had," Kerrigan said. "And then we've seen what he can do in the run game. He's very, very physical, and really makes life hard on tight ends. He's a guy that can do it all. I think as his role increases and as his snap count increases, he'll be able to display that more."