Ryan Kerrigan Still Adjusting to Role, Playing with Cast on Thumb

The Eagles' offseason free-agent signing is off to an uneventful start with his new team, but he's had success against Dallas in his long career
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PHILADELPHIA – The man who terrorized the Eagles during 10 seasons in Washington, who rang up close to 100 career sacks with the Football Team, has yet to catch even a whiff of a quarterback so far this young season with his new team.

Of course, that man is Ryan Kerrigan, and his signing this past offseason looked like a Howie Roseman coup.

It still might be.

Two games into this 17-game journey, Kerrigan has not shown up on the stat sheet, but before writing him off as having no miles left on an odometer that just turned 33 last month, here are some extenuating circumstances.

First, his right thumb.

Second, he’s playing a position that he wasn’t used much in with Washington.

Still, Kerrigan said on Friday, “I’ve done OK. I think it’s a couple things. It’s getting adjusted to some different alignments. I hadn’t really done a lot in my previous 10 years, and also the thumb has certainly not made things easy, but I’m going to keep working at, keep working on getting comfortable in a new role and getting comfortable with a cast.”

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With Brandon Graham out for the season, all eyes have been on the defensive end spot this week as the Eagles prepare to play in Dallas against the Cowboys on Monday Night Football.

At least Kerrigan is no stranger to the rivalry.

“I know in Washington, Dallas is always a big week for us, and in my short time in Philly that I’ve experienced, that it’s a big week here now, too,” said Kerrigan, who has 95.5 career sacks.

“Not only is it a division game, so there’s more significance in that, but just the historical aspect of it does make you a little more excited to play in this game.”

Kerrigan has played 34 and 32 snaps in the first two games, a number that is probably about right where it should be, though it may rise by a handful in Graham’s absence.

Still wearing a plastic-looking cast when he talked with reporters, Kerrigan is hopeful of soon exchanging it for a softer version that will allow him greater flexiblity.

“It’s not ideal, to say the least,” he said. “As much as we play with our hands on the defensive line, to not have the opposable digits working is not fun, but that’s football. Unfortunately, sometimes you gotta overcome, you have to adapt and find a way to get it done regardless.”

The thumb also cost Kerrigan some of his football conditioning, something that he said has gotten better after playing over 30 snaps in each of the first two games and will continue to get better.

As far as the new scheme goes, he is being asked to play more five-technique, lining up at defensive end after years spent in a more upright linebacker spot in Washington.

He’s also having to bounce back and forth from the left side to the right side of the line since defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon wants to have his players be able to go against different offensive linemen within games in order to make them potentially more effective.

“I don’t have a lot of experience in that but that’s where I’m needed with the team right now, so I’m trying to get better at it,” he said.

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The potential good news is that Kerrigan has played well in his career against the Cowboys.

He has contributed sacks in 12 of 19 career games against them. In his last games versus Dallas, he has 29 tackles (19 solos), 11 QB hits, 10 tackles for loss, nine sacks, and one forced fumble.

“I think the most impressive thing that I respect about Ryan and I like about Ryan is he’s a pro,” said defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. “He handles his business. He’s always prepared. Even when he was sidelined during training camp, he always showed up prepared to do whatever, always focused in meetings, always asking questions.

“He’s the guy you like playing with. I want to play next to Ryan, now I think we’ll have more opportunities to play beside each other now that BG is down.”

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.