Kerrigan has put the pressure on his unit. Can they deliver? (US Presswire)
ASHBURN, Va. (WUSA) -- Two seasons ago, in 2010, the Redskins defense ranked a disastrous 31st in the NFL. It was defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's first season implementing the 3-4, and things couldn't have gone much worse.
Last season, the Redskins improved in the second year of the defensive overhaul. The unit finished 13th in 2011, but in early October, Washington ranked in the top five. That's a place where outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan says the team will return.
"I think if we maintain a high level all season, there's no reason why we can't be top five," Kerrigan said during open locker room on Wednesday. "Last year we were ranked in the top 10 for awhile, and then the last couple games of the games we kind of slipped off."
The second-year outside linebacker expects himself to contribute at a much higher level, too. Kerrigan told reporters, gone will be the confusion and clutter than often happens to players during their rookie season.
"You just look on film from last year to this year...last year, I'm just
shaking my head, like 'what was I doing?' just cause I know now this
year what I'm supposed to do and know how I am supposed to be doing it,"
said the 24-year-old out of Purdue. "I feel so much more comfortable
with what I'm able to do and how I am able to cover."
Kerrigan's high hopes were echoed by others on defense too.
"We just have kept getting better. Last year we went from 31st to 13th. We can definitely be a top-10, top-5 defense by getting sacks and forcing turnovers," said defensive end Adam Carriker.
The unofficial team spokesman, Lorenzo Alexander, also concurred.
"This year [the goal] is to get in that top five. It's our third year in the scheme. We just want to continue to get better. Obviously if you are shutting teams down and stopping the run each week -- holding teams to 80 or 90 yards or less -- is our ultimate goal," said Alexander.
Stephen Bowen agreed with the top five sentiment, but was adamant that the Redskins pursuit of becoming an elite defense starts on Sunday against the Saints.
"We have to make them one-dimensional. People always talk about their passing attack, but they run the ball really well. They have three or four good running backs," said Bowen. "I think if we stop that, and make them one-dimensional, it will be hard for them to catch pressure on the back end."
Coming off of 'Bounty-Gate', the Redskins expect New Orleans to send a message to the entire league that they are still the same team.
"They are going to be coming out on fire," said Carriker. "A lot of people have said without some of their players and coaches that they won't be able to do it. So they are going to be trying to prove people wrong."