Miracles happen at this time of year. Reindeer can fly, a small amount of oil can light a lamp for eight days, and watching Skip Bayless becomes (almost) enjoyable. However, Eagles fans had quickened hearts and spinning heads five minutes into the game against New Orleans, when an otherworldly wonder occurred at the Linc. Somehow. From somewhere. For some reason. Ryan Kerrigan made a play.
What was this twisted sorcery? Why hasn’t it happened before? And will we ever see it again?
Unlike the Roswell Incident or the existence of Bigfoot, there is now documentary evidence of Ryan Kerrigan contributing to success for the Eagles. Cameras picked up a shadowy figure, clad in black and lumbering towards Trevor Siemian like a zombie, just before TJ Edwards made an interception in the first quarter against the Saints. The markings on his back confirmed it: This was a genuine Kerrigan sighting.
Until this season, Kerrigan was a common presence in backfields across the NFL. He achieved a franchise-record 95.5 sacks during ten seasons in Washington, including 13.5 in 19 games against Philadelphia. Lane Johnson was quick to voice his relief when Kerrigan joined the Eagles in May. But since then, the DE’s productivity has disappeared like a pleasure yacht drifting into the Bermuda Triangle. In 233 defensive snaps this season, Kerrigan’s only stat-worthy achievement is one (ONE) tackle.
By comparison, Tarron Jackson has seven tackles, one sack and one forced fumble in 128 snaps. Even the mythical Umbrella Man of Stanford has managed four tackles so far this year.
Is there a rational explanation?
Switching to a new team after a decade in Washington does bring some challenges. Jonathan Gannon’s remarkably generous new scheme has created headaches for several defensive players. Fletcher Cox publicly stated his frustration with Gannon’s soft-touch approach. And the Eagles currently rank 28th in total team sacks this season, as they prefer to hang back and watch the flowers grow.
But while Cox argued that he was being asked to play an ill-suited role, it’s hard to imagine Kerrigan making a similar complaint. When he arrived in Philly, the 33-year-old’s versatility and flexibility were regarded as key assets. Switching him from defensive end to stand-up linebacker was a big selling point. But wherever he has lurked pre-snap, the result has been toothless and non-threatening.
What about the future?
It doesn’t require a crystal ball to predict that Kerrigan’s numbers cannot get worse. But while Jonathan Gannon talked down the importance of stat sheets after Game 6, those stats have defined the player’s reputation as one of the most productive DEs of his generation – and almost certainly helped persuade the Eagles to cross Kerrigan’s palm with up to $3.5 million of silver.
With the team now blitzing more frequently, it’s possible Kerrigan will find more time and space to push his numbers up. And with a much friendlier schedule from now until January, it’s likely that #90 will get permission to spend less time cowering in the shadows and more time charging into the spotlight. Will that be enough to bring Kerrigan’s career back from the dead? The truth is out there.
A tale of the unexpected
Signing Ryan Kerrigan seemed like offseason magic in the May sunshine, but has been more like a disappointing puppet show in the chilly football months. Sacks and stats aren’t everything – but it’s not unreasonable to expect something from a former pro-bowl player. As Kerrigan approaches the twilight zone of his career, there’s no doubting his legacy as an outstanding performer for Washington. Unless things change quickly, however, he’ll be remembered as a puzzling enigma in Philadelphia. A phantom. A mystery. And a waste of time and money.
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire