The tip, interception and touchdown he pulled off in his first NFL game made Ryan Kerrigan a "SportsCenter" celebrity this past week, and the Washington Redskins' rookie linebacker had some fun with it.
"Got a few new Twitter followers out of it," Kerrigan said in a phone interview Friday. "And my friends have definitely told me every time they've seen it on the Top 10 plays, so that's exciting."
Kerrigan said he'd dreamed, of course, about scoring an NFL touchdown. But since he never found the end zone as a collegiate defensive end at Purdue, it seemed inconceivable that he'd do it in his first game. For a guy making the sometimes difficult transition from end to linebacker with only a month's worth of NFL practices before the regular season began, it was a thrilling moment.
It didn't mean he'd solved anything, though. The Redskins' 3-4 defense is suited to take immediate advantage of Kerrigan's raw skills as a pass-rusher, and playing outside linebacker opposite Brian Orakpo puts Kerrigan in position to pile up sacks and big plays. But there's more to the position than that, as Kerrigan saw when he hit the film room.
"Certainly I'd like to play tighter coverage in the passing game," Kerrigan said. "That's something that's needed as a linebacker coming from a defensive end position that I played in college. Need to play tighter for sure."
Kerrigan said he noticed a play on which he was responsible for the Giants' tight end but gave him too much room to get open on a drag route. Sounds simple, but when you've never had to worry about covering a receiver or a tight end before, it's the kind of thing that can sneak up on you. Even in the pass rush, Kerrigan said, he needs to refine things. He said he kept using the same move over and over again Sunday and, when he noticed that on tape, decided he needs to change things up every now and then against NFL offensive linemen who are likely to figure him out otherwise.
"Got to try and keep the offensive linemen on their toes," Kerrigan said. "I went in with a certain game plan and kept at it because of some things that worked, but you can definitely see where it would be more effective to change some things up."
Kerrigan's in a great spot, working with veterans like Orakpo and London Fletcher and the strong support system the Redskins' defense offers. His big play made him a big star right away in his first NFL game. But it was just one play in just one game, and Kerrigan's smart enough to know the hard work is just beginning.