The Philadelphia Eagles don’t have many clear-cut strengths as a team. However, Nick Sirianni’s squad does feature a fearsome defensive line headlined by Fletcher Cox. By convincing a longtime nemesis to sign up to face his former team twice a year, Philadelphia suddenly has even more depth along the front seven.
And given their lack of top-end talent in the secondary, signing Ryan Kerrigan could pay big dividends this season for the Eagles.
Ryan Kerrigan has quietly been one of the NFL’s best edge rushers for years
Washington Football Team fans didn’t have much to cheer about the last decade. After all, the franchise experienced plenty of low moments on and off the field that inspired scorn rather than applause. From a football standpoint, while many of the team’s draft picks failed to pan out, Kerrigan more than lived up to the hype.
Chosen 16th overall in 2011, the former Purdue star wasted no time making an impact. Kerrigan started all 16 games as a rookie and totaled 64 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and 14 quarterback hits. He followed up by earning his first of four Pro Bowl selections after totaling 8.5 sacks, eight passes defended and a defensive touchdown in 2012.
Over the course of the next six seasons, Kerrigan didn’t miss a single game. Along the way, he consistently put pressure on the quarterback while showing toughness against the run. The 6-foot-4, 265-pounder surpassed double-digit sacks four times and developed into a key leader in the locker room.
However, after racking up 37 sacks between 2016-18, Kerrigan only totaled 5.5 in each of the last two seasons. So despite being one of the NFL’s most consistent pass rushers for years, he entered free agency without a ton of buzz.
The Eagles’ longtime enemy abandoned his allegiances to take his career in a new direction
Washington paid Kerrigan to wreak havoc off the edge for 10 years. During that time, Eagles quarterbacks got to know the hulking linebacker quite well. Since he entered the NFL, Kerrigan has recorded more sacks against Philadelphia (13.5) than any other team except Dallas. Ironically, he totaled that same number in the exact same number of career games against the Cowboys.
But after starring for Washington for a decade, the 32-year-old has a new employer. Luckily for the Eagles, their longtime enemy can now be called an ally. On Monday, Kerrigan took to Instagram to announce his decision to take his talents to the City of Brotherly Love.
“I know I probably wasn’t your favorite player over the past decade, but Eagles fans I’m fired up to be playing for you guys now! LFG!!!” he wrote in his caption.
By signing Kerrigan, the Eagles added a player with 95.5 career sacks and a reputation of being physical and durable. It also doesn’t hurt to not have to worry about facing the accomplished pass rusher any longer.
Can Philadelphia’s deep defensive line make up for a thin secondary?
Kerrigan rounds out an Eagles defensive line that boasts both star power and impressive depth.
At end, Philadelphia features a blend of veterans and young players with upside. Brandon Graham, who entered the league as the No. 13 overall pick back in 2010, should start on the right side. Although he’s never totaled double-digit sacks in any of his 11 NFL seasons, the 33-year-old has recorded at least 5.5 on seven occasions.
Fifth-year pro Derek Barnett has shown flashes of Pro Bowl potential. Yet, the 2017 first-round pick must prove he deserves a lucrative contract extension. If he struggles to provide a consistent impact, Kerrigan seems like a solid fallback plan. The Eagles also have 2018 fourth-rounder Josh Sweat and 2021 sixth-rounder Tarron Jackson in the mix.
Philadelphia’s defensive tackle group includes Cox, Javon Hargrave, Hassan Ridgeway, and third-round rookie Milton Williams. That unit, at least on paper, looks strong, too.
The Eagles desperately need their front four to get after the quarterback. Their secondary doesn’t look playoff-caliber, so it will be critical for the defensive line to apply pressure on a down-to-down basis. With Kerrigan now in the fold, perhaps Philly’s front will rediscover its 2017 form.
If not, it will take some serious magic on offense for the team to make the playoffs again.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.