Can Eagles pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan help replace Brandon Graham?

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When will Ryan Kerrigan start playing like Ryan Kerrigan? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Ryan Kerrigan has played a lot in the Eagles’ first two games. 

He hasn't produced a lot, but he's played a lot.

Now, with Brandon Graham out for the year, the Eagles desperately need production from the four-time Pro Bowler.

Kerrigan recorded 95.5 sacks with Washington, but his brief stay with the Eagles has not gone well so far.

He broke his right hand in training camp on Aug. 2, had surgery a week later and didn’t return to practice until the week before the Falcons game.

Two games into his career, Kerrigan has played 67 snaps — only one fewer than $40 million man Josh Sweat — but has no sacks, tackles, hurries or quarterback hits so far.

And two weeks after saying he was “pleasantly surprised” with how well he could play with a cast on his hand, he was singing a different tune before practice on Friday.

“It’s not ideal, to say the least,” he said. “Definitely, as much as we play with our hands on the defensive line, to not have the digits working is not fun. But that’s football, unfortunately. Sometimes you’ve got to overcome and adapt and find a way to get it done regardless.”

Kerrigan also said he’s not used to his occasional role as an inside rusher when Jonathan Gannon goes to a 3-4 front. He said he never played that position during his 10 years in Washington.

“I don’t have a lot of experience in that, but that’s where I’m needed with the team right now, so I’m trying to get better at it,” he said.

Kerrigan also alluded to conditioning being an issue when the season began after he missed a month of practice time this summer.

“I feel ready,” he said. “I’m glad that I was able to up my snap counts the first couple weeks and kind of get in more football shape after not being able to practice much in training camp. But I’m feeling good now.”

The bottom line is the Eagles need Kerrigan to get to the quarterback in Graham’s absence. But is he up to the task?He’s 33 years old, and he’s already playing significantly more snaps per game this year (33) than he did last year (25).

Asked how he feels he’s played these first two weeks, Kerrigan didn’t exactly sound thrilled.

“I’ve done OK,” he said. “I think it’s a couple things. It’s getting adjusted to some different alignments I haven’t really done a lot in my previous 10 years, and the thumb has certainly not made things easy. 

“But I’m going to keep working at it, keep working at getting comfortable, new role, and get comfortable with the cast.

“I think as it continues to heal and continues to get better, I think then we’ll be able to dwindle down the cast and make it more like a mobile thing while still protecting it.”

Fletcher Cox entered the NFL a year after Kerrigan and admired him from afar before they became teammates.

“I think the most impressive thing that I respect about Ryan and I like about Ryan is he’s a pro,” Cox said. “He handles his business, he’s always prepared, when he was sidelined during training camp he always showed up and was prepared to do whatever. 

“He’s a guy you like playing with. I want to play next to Ryan and now I think we’ll have more opportunities to play next to each other now that B.G.’s down.”

Kerrigan has quite a resume. His 95.5 career sacks are the most by a current Eagle since Hall of Famer Richard Dent in 1997.

But how much is left? He did have 5.5 sacks in each of the last two seasons, but he’s three years removed from his last double-digit sack season and last Pro Bowl season.

This is only the second time in his 11-year career he doesn't have a sack after two weeks and the first time he hasn't had a tackle.

How much will Kerrigan be asked to help fill the void that Graham left?

“I guess we’ll see on Sunday, but I just know that we all have to step up and pick it up a little bit with his absence, not only from a playing aspect but from a leadership aspect,” Kerrigan said.

“The intensity that he brought to practice every day is something that we all have to pick up now that he’s injured, unfortunately.”

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