The Washington Redskins' first-team defense has played well through two preseason games, but is still awaiting the 2015 debut of Ryan Kerrigan and Junior Galette.*
Perhaps nothing better describes the process of building a great NFL defense than the often-overused analogy of putting together pieces of a puzzle.
The Washington Redskins are no doubt anxious to see what they're final product looks like when all of their parts are finally assembled.
So far, during the team's first two preseason games, the picture seem to be sliding into place smoothly, as the run defense has held up strong and pressure seems to be getting to opposing quarterbacks.
But some of the Redskins' major players on defense have yet to be added into the fold, and a few of them, like Pro Bowl outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, are corner pieces paramount to the final version of the defensive puzzle.
No one is more excited to see how the rest of the pieces of the defense fit than Kerrigan himself, who signed a multi-year contract extension with the Redskins this offseason. Held out from the team's two preseason games due to precaution over an offseason knee procedure, the fifth-year pro has loved what he's seen so far from his defense and is eagerly anticipating what could be a tantalizing unit coming together.
"I think things are going pretty well," Kerrigan told reporters after Tuesday's practice. "I like when you're watching the film that you see a lot of burgundy jerseys in the picture. That's what you want as a defense and as a team. To see that pursuit to the football is going to be something that will pay off down the road."
Galette 'looks awesome'Kerrigan, who had a career-best 13.5 sacks last season, has played opposite a fellow Pro Bowl-caliber outside linebacker in Brian Orakpo, but it is with newcomer Junior Galette that the team has the opportunity to field one of the most dangerous outside rushing combinations in the league.
Check out these photos of the Redskins preparing for their Week 3 preseason matchup against the Baltimore Ravens Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015, at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
Galette, who had a combined 22 sacks the past two seasons with the New Orleans Saints, is another potential corner piece in the defensive unit that has been held out of both preseason games so far due to his recovery from a left pectoral injury. But what Kerrigan has seen so far from Galette in practice has him hopeful that they will both soon be terrorizing opposing teams quarterbacks in the regular season.
"He looks awesome," Kerrigan said of Galette. "He's super athletic and just like I remember him in New Orleans. He's a guy that gets off the ball quickly and causes a lot of havoc in the backfield. You can tell he doesn't like sitting still for much, so he's excited to get out there I'm sure."
Kerrigan himself seems to feel a lot healthier these days as well. After having arthroscopic surgery performed on his left knee over the offseason, the Purdue product hopes to take the field for the first time in 2015 on Saturday in Baltimore against the Ravens.
But if he is held out once again for precautionary reasons – and then doesn't play in the fourth and final preseason game Sept. 3 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, which is typically the norm for starters – Kerrigan said he feels confident heading into the regular season.
"I mean it will get a little sore here and there, but overall it feels pretty good," Kerrigan said of his knee. "I'm glad I got the surgery done because it's feeling a lot better. I'm practicing full speed and whatnot, so we'll see come Saturday. I'm confident that no matter how many reps in the preseason I get, I'll be ready for regular season."
Line works 'in unison'If he does give it a go Saturday, it will be Kerrigan's first opportunity to play with the Redskins defense's revamped front line, which has been enhanced with the big bodies and presences of players like Terrance Knighton, Stephen Paea and Ricky Jean Francois. A stout front line usually tends to punch holes in opposing teams' offensive lines for linebackers to come rushing in, so Kerrigan is certainly glad to see the new additions.
"It's huge for the defense as a whole, especially the way they're playing," said Kerrigan. "The way they work in unison, guys have a good feel for if one guy gets too high on a rush and they cover him. It's good to see us working like that."
His outside running mate Galette has mutual feelings about getting to play with not only Kerrigan but the strong inside run stoppers assembled on the frontline. After playing on some decent defenses in New Orleans, Galette still feels that the defense this season in Washington is the best he has been a part of.
"But it's still preseason and still early," Galette warned. "We've still got a lot of work to do and a lot of guys haven't played with each other before, like when we get Ryan and me out there together, Ricky Hatch [Jason Hatcher] and Paea; all of us out there. I know it looks good on paper and we've actually been doing really well in preseason, so I'm just really excited to play with a really good defense."
Redskins fans could see the first early glimpse of the finished puzzle Saturday in Baltimore, as many of the defensive starters might be set to see extended minutes. Though it is still just a preseason game, the players like Kerrigan know that it's a great chance for the team to gel in the face of a strong Ravens team.
"It's a big game," Kerrigan said. "It will probably be the most the starters play for the preseason and especially against a [good] team. I know for us defensively, playing a team like the Ravens who pride themselves on being physical and pride themselves on running the football will be a good test for us."