Rookie Watch: Kerrigan can do it all
The Redskins were in shambles after the 2010 season. But the way I saw it -- and Washington apparently agreed -- the best plan was to rebuild the defense during the offseason before the 2011 season, then deal with the offensive side of the ball after this regular season.
Well, the offense is still a mess. Fine. But the defense is vastly improved, and the work Washington did in this past free agency and draft classes has directly improved that side of the ball. No addition was better than Ryan Kerrigan. A defensive end in college, Kerrigan has adjusted better than expected to 3-4 outside linebacker. An underrated athlete, Kerrigan hasn't looked lost in coverage and has fluid enough hips to cover the short zones.
But Kerrigan's allure is his overall playmaking ability and his pass rush. In both areas, Kerrigan has been superb. He uses his hands well, has several pass-rush moves that he can go to and gets off the ball with quickness and leverage. Match these traits with excellent hustle and a natural ability to consistently be around the ball, and you can see why Kerrigan has been a weekly member of my top 10.
|Ranking||Player, position (draft position)||Last week|
|Von Miller, Broncos LB (first round, No. 2)
By his standards, Miller started slow on Sunday in San Diego. But Miller eventually made his usual impact and was unblockable at times. It is easy to talk about Tim Tebow in Denver. But by no means could Tebow accomplish what he has if it were not for the Broncos' vastly improved defense -- and Miller is the best player on that defense.
|Cam Newton, Panthers QB (first round, No. 1)
In a very workmanlike and efficient fashion, Newton led his team into Indianapolis and defeated the winless Colts. Newton made plays with his legs and several fantastic throws. More wins like this will come.
|Andy Dalton, Bengals QB (second round, No. 35)
Cincinnati got down on the road in Cleveland, but Dalton and his young counterparts remained poised and kept the course, eventually getting the victory. Dalton has thrown for 643 yards in the past two weeks.
|A.J. Green, Bengals WR (first round, No. 4)
In Week 12, Green did the spectacular when it mattered most -- going up and high-pointing a pass late in the game in heavy traffic to set up the Bengals' divisional win.
|Tyron Smith, Cowboys OT (first round, No. 9)
Not much to report here. Smith remains very impressive and was able to showcase his abilities on a national stage as the Cowboys edged out a surging Miami team. Smith should dominate the Cardinals' outside linebackers in Week 13.
|J.J. Watt, Texans DE (fifth round, No. 11)
The Texans might have the best defense in football right now. Watt & Co. put on another dominant performance against Jacksonville, with Watt getting two sacks. Already a very good player versus the run, Watt's pass-rush skills are picking up.
|DeMarco Murray, Cowboys RB (third round, No. 71)
Murray could be missing his lead-blocking fullback, Tony Fiammetta, a little right now. And what running back wouldn't? But even without Fiammetta, Murray did account for 128 total yards against a Dolphins defense that is playing at a very high level right now. Murray just produces.
|Ryan Kerrigan, Redskins LB (first round, No. 16)
Although he didn't notch a sack, Kerrigan had yet another productive day as the Redskins pulled out a hard-fought win in Seattle. The Jets are weak at right tackle, so expect another strong performance in Week 13.
|Aldon Smith, 49ers LB (first round, No. 7)
Although Smith hasn't been on as torrid a pace as he was a few weeks ago, he should light up Sam Bradford and the Rams' awful offensive tackles this week. Don't be surprised if he is higher on this list one week from now.
|Patrick Peterson, Cardinals CB (first round, No. 5)
Four punt returns for touchdowns -- all over 80 yards. Wow. That is certainly fantastic, but Peterson remains a work in progress as a cornerback, and that was on full display again against the Rams' Brandon Lloyd.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.
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