Ryan Kerrigan not burdened by pact, but 'of course you want to justify it'

ASHBURN, Va. -- Long before Washington Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan signed his big contract, he poked holes in his game and saw areas he could improve. After failing to be voted into the Pro Bowl, despite 13.5 sacks, Kerrigan mentioned the games he could have done more.

So any desire to improve this season, and start becoming more productive, stems from personal pride more than trying to live up to his contract. That’s why he said he doesn’t feel as though the contract has altered his approach or played with his head.

He does want to show he was worth the money, however. Kerrigan signed a five-year extension worth potentially $57.5 million.

“Absolutely,” he said. “That’s a lot of personal pride. I got that big contract and I want to show I’m worthy of it. Of course you want to justify it, but it’s not something like I wake up every day and say I’ve got to [justify] it.”

Kerrigan has a half a sack in three games, though he had some quality rushes against the New York Giants. He just didn’t sack quarterback Eli Manning. He’s pressured opposing quarterbacks 23 times this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That’s 7.7 times per game compared to 9.2 last season. His previous low was 8.1 pressures per game as a rookie.

Sometimes it’s a matter of the quarterback getting the ball out faster, but not always.

“I’ve been close a number of times, but close doesn’t cut it,” Kerrigan said. “I have to win my one-on-ones more and win them quicker. I’ve been close a lot of times, but I have to win it quicker and make things happen quicker.”

Not that the Redskins want him to change much of anything. They look at past production and know there will be more plays made by Kerrigan in the future. Last season was his first with double-digit sacks, but what they also could use are the game-changing turnovers -- Kerrigan has forced 16 fumbles in his career, including one this season.

“Ryan is his own toughest critic. He is extremely hard on himself and he knows that and wants to play better and by playing better [I mean] from a statistical standpoint,” Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry said. “From an effort standpoint, from a ‘want-to,’ from a trying standpoint, Ryan Kerrigan’s fine. If he’s going to keep doing what he’s doing, he’s going to be fine.”

But Kerrigan wants more.

“I know if I win my one-on-one matchups more and get to the quarterback quicker, then I have a chance to get the ball out,” Kerrigan said. “Who knows what happens?”