Robert Quinn and Ryan Kerrigan were two of the most talked about defensive ends in the 2011 NFL Draft, a draft class featuring a bumper crop of pass rushers. Separated by a single draft slot, the St. Louis Rams selected Quinn with the 14th pick and Washington surprised everyone by forgoing a quarterback and taking Kerrigan with the 16th pick. Both players will be on the field at the Ed Jones Dome this week, a sneak peak at two players who could be among the league's elite pass rushers in a matter of years.
Ryan Kerrigan was today named as the NFL Rookie of the Month. All he did was accumulate 12 tackles, two sacks, three passes defended, a forced fumble and a pick six. Not bad for his first three games. In the lead up to the draft, Mel Kiper compared Kerrigan to Rams DE Chris Long. The two are a little different, but the Hair compared them on the basis of their motor, which is hard not to read as white guys who rush the passer. Surely the Hair is above that kind of shtick?
At the Combine, I listened to Kerrigan talk about his proclivity for finding the ball. He noted that it was drilled into them at Purdue. He gets a rematch with his former Big Ten sparring partner Rams TE Lance Kendricks this week and former Indiana OT Rodger Saffold.
Robert Quinn got off to a slower start. For some reason the Rams coaching staff decided to leave Quinn on the inactive list for the season opener. Since being activated, however, Quinn has gotten progressively better. He picked up his first NFL sack in week two on Eli Manning, and last week was able to get to the quarterback consistently. According to Pro Football Focus' stats, Quinn had three hits and four more pressures on Joe Flacco last week.
Both Quinn and Kerrigan also benefit from more seasoned, threatening pass rushers on the other side of them. Long works the opposite side of the field as Quinn, and Brian Orakpo is Washington's other OLB.
Both teams have a tall order defending Quinn and Kerrigan. Whichever team does a better job of shutting the rookies, as well as their more seasoned counterparts, just might have the best shot at winning the game.