Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan nearly matched his career high in sacks, kept his consecutive games streak in tact and put together his third Pro Bowl season in his seventh year with the Redskins.
Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan had another impressive season. If that description seems rote, it's because it has remained accurate for the entirety of his career.
He started every game, again, finishing 2017 with 112 consecutive games started since being drafted in 2011. He tallied 13 sacks, his highest total since 2014. He even recorded an interception for a touchdown in the team's season opener against the Eagles, the third one he's returned in his career.
That he has maintained this level of consistency is one of the central reasons for being selected to his third Pro Bowl, and second in as many seasons, and further cements him as one of the most reliable outside linebacker threats on Washington has ever had.
The selection also made Kerrigan the first defensive player for the Redskins to be named to consecutive Pro Bowls since London Fletcher earned four straight selections from 2009-12.
The foundation for Kerrigan's high level of performance comes from his desire to keep learning about, and improving, his body. Each year he uses the offseason to find new ways keep his body in peak shape. It's helped with injuries, for sure, and it's improved his overall health.
"One of the things I've learned is just try to learn something new each offseason, whether it's learning how to incorporate more flexibility, more soft tissue work into your routine, or whether to incorporate something new diet wise, it's just adding something new each offseason. I'm just going to try and figure out what that is for me this year."
Last year, Kerrigan did some research and received bloodwork to determine his own food allergies. He stopped drinking whey protein shakes in favor of vegan and plant-based proteins and found that it eliminated inflammation in his body throughout the grind of the season.
"That's what I would just encourage the guys to do," Kerrigan said. "One of the things Vernon Davis told me earlier this season, I asked him, 'How do you do it, man? How do you – in year 12, 13 -- how are you still running like a deer?' He said he takes care of himself the same way in the offseason that he does in season.
"That was something that really kind of struck me and stuck with me, because you start to think," he added. "During the season, you do all this stuff to take care of your body and maintain, but out of season, you lift and you run, but you might not do as much chiropractic work and cold tubs and stuff like that. That's key not only for guys who are like myself, who are seven, eight years in the league, but guys that are young guys to develop those habits."
Health was the Redskins' primary concern in 2017; it was an issue that hampered the development of multiple young players that Kerrigan believes have promising futures, including the likes of Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis and Anthony Lanier II.
"You look at Matt and Anthony and Jon, those guys are young and I feel like they could be really, really productive players in this league and showed that at times this year. I know for a guy like Jon, just got to get him healthy and got to keep him healthy. We've got some good things to build on, for sure."
The improvements along the line certainly helped Kerrigan on the edge, creating a multi-faceted pass rush that only aided his chances of getting to the quarterback. Countless times, Allen and Ionnidis provided a push inside that forced quarterbacks out of the middle of the pocket and into the waiting arms of Kerrigan, Preston Smith and Junior Galette.
When Kerrigan reached the 10-sack mark on the year with two takedowns of Denver Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler, he joined Charles Mann (five) and Dexter Manley (four) as the only Redskins to record at least three 10-sack seasons since the NFL adopted sacks as an official statistic in 1982.
As the Redskins face an uncertain offseason, Kerrigan repeated a refrain heard throughout the season by his locker. Better results in 2018 will come down to everyone fulfilling his responsibility.
"It ultimately comes down to execution," Kerrigan said. "I say that all the time, but I really believe it. It comes down to guys doing their assignment each play and all 11 guys doing that each play. If you do that, you can be successful, and we've done that in games before, in games like Oakland where we played really well, but then didn't do it in games like Minnesota when things didn't go so well. It's just a matter of finding that consistency."