RYAN KERRIGAN, Linebacker
As baby-faced as rookies come, Ryan Kerrigan will have to grow up fast while learning a completely new position. A defensive end at Purdue, he finished tied for first in the nation last year in tackles for loss (26), tied for second in forced fumbles (five) and third in sacks (12½). After selecting Kerrigan with the 16th overall pick, the Redskins moved the disruptive edge rusher to outside linebacker in their 3--4 defense. The coaches are hoping that with Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo both applying pressure on the outside, the team will improve on last year's 29 sacks (25th in the league).
At 6'4" and 267 pounds, Kerrigan has the build to be a linebacker but is still trying to hone the instincts and fluidity needed at the position.
"You're in a three-point stance as a defensive end and you can only see what's ahead of you. But when you're standing up as a linebacker, you can see the whole field, and you have to recognize formations and everything," he says. "I've never had to worry about pass coverages or anything like that before. That's been the biggest adjustment.
"You don't have much time to pause or hesitate at this level—you have to react. Before, if it was a run or a pass, it really didn't matter. I was just going forward no matter what. I've made some mental errors, because maybe I've been thinking too much. For the most part, I'm getting the hang of it."