Ryan Kerrigan and ten-yard splits

When I watched Purdue defensive lineman Ryan Kerrigan, I didn’t see a LEO pass rusher on tape. He played in the 260lbs range in college and was a fun player to watch – relentless, maximum effort and big time production (32 sacks between 2008-10).

Even so, he never flashed a consistent burst off the line or pure edge speed. He looked like an effort guy playing with OLB size. The way he performed lent itself to the right end position in an orthodox 4-3, but not necessarily Seattle’s unorthodox LEO.

He added weight before the combine, showed up at nearly 270lbs and honestly – I didn’t expect a good forty time.  Then he ran an eye catching official 4.71, but has also been clocked in the late 4.6’s. You can’t ignore those numbers because according to the times, he’s not a great deal slower than more obvious LEO candidates like Brooks Reed, Robert Quinn and Jabal Sheard.

Scouts tend to pay more attention to the ten-yard split posted by defensive lineman, because essentially they aren’t going to be running forty yards very often in a game. Do they have a quick burst? Will they be able to get out of a stance and explode? The National Football Post had this article in 2009 on the subject:

“The 10-yard split is a vital time gauge for every position in the NFL, but it’s arguably more important for edge pass rushers than other positions. Pure pass-rushing specialists who rely on their first step to gain an advantage on offensive tackles need to display explosive first-step quickness out of the stance. Therefore, the timing of a pass rusher’s 10-yard split is an excellent indicator of how quickly he can explode off the ball and cover the ground needed to get after the quarterback.”

The article lists some of the faster ten-yard splits from the 2009 draft class, with Clay Matthews unsurprisingly listed at the top. What did surprise me was the time they gave – 1.49 seconds. I haven’t seen that time paired with Matthews before and I was under the impression he ran a 1.58. The article itself describes anything over 1.6 seconds as ‘average’, yet most of the 2011 class posted times in that range.

Indeed the general information for ten-yard splits appears inconsistent and tough to diagnose. In doing research for this piece I noted Ryan Kerrigan listed with a 1.61, a 1.64 and a 1.65. I’ve seen Brooks Reed credited with a 1.58 and a 1.62. Chris Long (Kerrigan is tentatively compared to Long) is given a 1.53 in 2009 by the NFP piece which seems a bit too quick.

Surely there has to be a better way of tracking all this information officially? It’d certainly be more helpful to judge these guys and compare.

Let’s give Kerrigan the benefit of the doubt and say he ran a 1.61. Do you buy into his potential based on the relentless approach and the college production? He’s not a slouch off the edge, but he’s certainly more effort than pure speed.

To see Kerrigan’s combine work out, click here.

Game tape vs Ohio State courtesy of the brilliant Aaron Aloysius:


  1. Ben

    This is a really interesting question Rob and I’ve definitely toiled with it. It’s clear we can’t afford any less pass rush ability from our base front four. The question that must be asked with Kerrigan is whether he can offer a more ‘consistent’ pass rush than Clemons? Tentatively I say maybe. Clearly Clemons is more explosive but our pass rush really suffered when he was shut down.

    I dunno smart it is to give the starting job to a rookie though. Kerrigan’s value would be as a starter and not as a conditional pass rusher where we’d want more explosiveness.

    • Ben

      I like guys like Reed and Sheard more because we could start them out as conditional pass rushers. If we really are interested in Kerrigan then it wouldn’t surprise me if we traded Clemons.

      • Rob

        I’m still really torn on the whole LEO position. Clearly there’s going to be some talent at DE around where the Seahawks pick. It has to be an option and although we saw production from Clemons and Brock, adding another talented pass rusher shouldn’t be ruled out. If the top three guys on your board are DE’s, do you draft the fourth guy just because he’s a DT? I’m not convinced.

        At the same time, if you aren’t getting a guy who can improve the situation, are you adding to a position of depth with so many other huge needs?

        • Ben

          I think Leo has to be an option for sure. If we’re putting off drafting a QB yet again then it doesn’t seem unreasonable to add talent to another essential position like DE. Especially since Brock and Clemons are no spring chickens. It’s scary to think how bad our pass rush would have been last year if one of them had gotten injured.

          Would you rank Reed and Sheard ahead of Phil Taylor?

          • Rob

            I’d struggle to seperate that trio.

          • ChavaC

            I don’t think you can give Clemons and Brock that much credit for their numbers. Lets not forget they were both less than stellar players who exploded for career numbers from the moment they got to Seattle. To my eyes one of the biggest points of the LEO position is that you can take a one dimensional player and put him in a one dimensional role that he can succeed in. The problem, as we saw last year, is that if you have one player selling out against the pass you need others to pick up the slack in the run game. As of right now I don’t think there’s a huge shortage of one dimensional every down DE’s, and I think Pete wouldn’t have too hard of a time filling the LEO position (we saw how relatively easy it was when he scuttled Tapp). On the other hand the stud DT/NT is always a hot commodity.

            I think the real question is whether the LEO is worth it at all. Clemons and Brock put up huge numbers (20 sacks combined) that were vastly exaggerated in comparison to their effectiveness. Clemons in particular would completely vanish in some games and make our already bad secondary look even worse, if that’s even possible. What is the point of sacking a quarterback for 8 yards if on the next play you generate zero pressure and he gashes you for a 20 yard strike?

          • Ben

            I was just wondering because of the hypothetical you used.

          • Ben

            Good points ChavaC. Your final question reflects my sentiments about finding a more consistent pass rusher for our base formation. I’m not so down on Clemons’ and Brock’s numbers as others though. Clemons’ edge rush is top tier and Brock’s greatest asset is his pass rush arsenal of moves. He didn’t develop those over night… I don’t think we can so easily duplicate that success as some people would have us believe.

            Anyway, one of the reasons we might risk a first on a Leo is in the hope that we can find someone who can rush the passer without being such a liability against the run.

  2. charlie



    This stuff makes me really anxious for draft day ha

    • Rob

      There is zero evidence Seattle will resort to a short passing game. Nobody can watch Minnesota – where Bevell has been the OC for the last five years – and say that was a WCO based on short passing. Having seen a lot of Ponder on tape, I’d also argue strongly against the suggestion that you can use ‘accuracy’ as a positive for him.

    • ChavaC


      This is the same guy who mocked Taylor Mays in the first to us last year (=. Wouldn’t worry too much.

  3. PatrickH

    You can search for the combine measured times by position and year in the following link – http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/prospectrankings

    For pass rushers, search in the DE and OLB categories. Unfortunately, ten yard splits only measure straight line speed. Besides explosive first step, good edge pass rusher like Matthews or Clemons also seem to have the ability to turn the corner without losing speed or falling down. Perhaps the short shuttle or 3-cone times are more indicative of that but I am not sure.

  4. Kip

    Kerrigan looked very quick and explosive to me in drills at the combine, but far less so on tape. I think Kerrigan is a solid middle 1st round talent for a typical 4-3 team (could play either side), but he’s a bit of a blurry fit for Seattle and LEO end is hardly a 1st round priority for this team.

    I like him though. If Seattle’s scheme and needs were different, I wouldn’t mind taking Kerrigan at #25.

  5. Jeff M.

    Football Outsiders has some research (google sackSEER) that seems to indicate vertical leap as a good measure for first step/explosiveness. It’s at least measured and recorded a lot more precisely and accurately than 10-yard splits.

    By that metric Kerrigan looks pretty close to Quinn and Aldon Smith, and ahead of Sheard. Among guys who worked out at LB, Justin Houston looks very explosive and Brooks Reed does not.

  6. 1sthill

    The talk of the 10-yard split made me curious of one of our former 1st round picks Lawrence Jackson. Lawrence Jackson’s 10-yard split was 1.60 at his Pro Day, and I think it is fair to say that time did not translate to the football field.

    10-yard splits and the vertical jump are the best measures of a player’s explosiveness, but too much is made of these times. I scouted Kerrigan a couple of games last year and he did not flash an explosive first step, so his 10-yard split time does not change my opinion of him. But if I were a scout and I would go back and look at Kerrigan’s game tape, of games that I have not seen before, to see if my initial evaluation of him was off. IMO Kerrigan showed at the combine what his strength is (relentless, high motor, hard worker); Kerrigan surprised a lot of people by testing great at just about everything which proves/verifies that he is a guy that will put in the hard work to make himself the best player he can be. He is just not explosive enough for the LEO, which is seems to be Coach Carroll’s biggest requirement for that position. Kerrigan’s best position is OLB in a 3-4 defense or LDE in a 4-3 defense. If the Seahawks ran a traditional 4-3 defense then I would be good with selecting Kerrigan in the 1st round, he could start at LDE.

    We should not be drafting players that don’t fit our system (Kerrigan), those players should not be on our draft board. If you draft that player then it is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. IMO the one exception to that rule is the QB position (Mallett); we early in the rebuilding process of this team and it is not too late to change our offense system to an offense that fits Mallett’s strengths.

    • Matt

      Well said and completely agree.

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