WASHINGTON — Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan loves the promotion of Greg Manusky to defensive coordinator.
The Redskins officially elevated Manusky from outside linebackers coach on Sunday after an extensive search for Joe Barry’s replacement. Manusky, who played middle linebacker for the Redskins from 1988 to 1990, wasn’t the flashy hire, but he fits the culture general manager Scot McCloughan and head coach Jay Gruden have been working to build at Redskins Park.
“He really did a lot for all of us in the outside linebacker room,” Kerrigan told 106.7 The Fan’s Danny Rouhier on Monday. “I mean, you saw a guy like Trent Murphy have the best year of his career so far under Manusky’s tutelage, and you saw our room really put together I think about 25 sacks on the season.”
Murphy emerged as a consistent pass rusher in 2016, racking up a career-high nine sacks over 16 games, trouncing his previous high of 3.5 sacks. All despite bulking up to 290 pounds last offseason to play defensive line, a transition the Redskins chose to reverse after losing Junior Galette to a torn Achilles tendon in training camp. Kerrigan contributed 11 sacks in his own right, his highest total since his 13.5-sack 2014.
“The production was there from Coach Manusky,” Kerrigan said. “I feel like the main thing he did, in addition to teaching us the techniques and whatnot that help us be better outside linebackers, but he helped us understand ball better, just from a schematics standpoint and what our defensive call doesn’t just mean for us, but also for the entire defense. Which, I think having that knowledge when you go out to play on Sundays is key for you.”
“He’s energetic every day. He’s a wild man at practice every day, even as a coach,” he said of Manusky’s coaching style. “So it was awesome to have that in the outside linebackers room. Meetings were always high energy, and practice was always high energy and you appreciated that from him.”
Kerrigan believes having the blessing of so many players almost assuredly had something to do with Manusky’s promotion: “I know a lot of guys, not just outside linebackers, this past year, they responded to Greg Manusky. He’s a guy that he’s played, he’s been there before, and so guys respect that aspect of him, but they also, he takes the time to explain things to you so you can see the ‘why’ in addition to the ‘what’ we need to do. Guys really respect him, they respond well to him, and I think he’s gonna be a good DC for us.”
What Kerrigan isn’t so certain of is the defensive scheme the Redskins will run under Manusky. Washington defenses have run some version of a 3-4 dating back to former coordinator Jim Haslett’s arrival in 2010. They did the same for two seasons under Barry.
“To be honest, I’m really not sure,” Kerrigan said. “I know in Indy he ran more of a 3-4 front but with a lot of nickel defense in there too, so a lot of four-man fronts. I don’t really know for sure what kind of schematic changes there will be. I know it will be an aggressive defense because that’s Manusky’s personality, and I know that’s the way he’s played and coached football, so I can guess that will be largely the case, but from a schematics standpoint I haven’t got really down to the Xs and Os with him yet.”
Asked if he felt their defense was too passive this past season, Kerrigan disagreed.
“I didn’t necessarily feel that way,” he said. “I’m a big believer in that no matter what the coaches call — they can call the perfect call or they can call an absolutely terrible call — it comes down to the players making plays. It comes down to us being where we need to be and us tackling, and we weren’t always doing that this year, and that’s why we struggled at times. It wasn’t because a call was bad, or a call was too passive or too aggressive, it ultimately comes down to us, I believe.”
Kerrigan does believe the internal hire will help the defense along in the way of continuity. He also agreed with the notion that, coming off consecutive winning seasons (8-7-1 in 2016, 9-7 in 2015), the Redskins as a whole are continuing to build in a positive direction.
“Yeah, I feel like we’re certainly building something,” he said. “I mean, we just missed out on the playoffs this year, we made the playoffs the year before, and I know, going back to 2012 and 2013 when we made the playoffs and then went 3-13 the following year, I feel a lot better about this year then I did after 2013. I feel like we’re definitely building something here.”
“Our offense was obviously really, really good this year,” he added. “And our defense at times showed some signs of promise, but we just ultimately as a team didn’t make the all the plays we needed to to get to the big dance and ultimately put ourselves in a position to be playing in the games yesterday and the game in two weeks. But we feel like we’re right there; we are right there.”
“Our division was a lot better this year than it has been in years past,” he said. “I feel like, yes, while there does need to be some changes, which there obviously has been, I feel like it’s important to keep some continuity, because we still did finish with a winning record and we have a lot of good pieces here.”