A quick look at Redskins pass rushers from the past decade or so
The Redskins just drafted Montez Sweat, and expectations are high for him. He is expected — by most Redskins fans, at least — to enhance the Redskins defense and increase the pass rush productivity.
There’s a chance that, 20 years from now, Redskins fans will look back and count Sweat among the greatest pass rushers in franchise history.
Of course, expectations were similarly high, if not higher, for Brian Orakpo, who was drafted 13th overall in 2009. He played well for the Redskins, but injuries marred his tenure with the team, and, after 6 seasons in DC, he was allowed to walk in free agency, signing with the Titans in 2015.
Orakpo was replaced by 2015 second-round pick Preston Smith, who flashed often, but was too inconsistent to earn a second contract with Washington. He left for the Packers during the free agency period this past April.
The Redskins have one guy on the team that played alongside Orakpo and Smith, and who will now take the field with Montez Sweat. It’s no surprise to anyone that that player is Ryan Kerrigan - the 16th overall pick of the Redskins in the 2011 draft.
It could be that Ryan Kerrigan is the best Redskins pass rusher of all time. He currently ranks #2 in career sacks, and — needing just 7 sacks to move into the #1 spot — will probably become the official all-time career sack leader sometime in the second half of the 2019 season.
I don’t know if that single statistic makes Kerrigan the best ever Redskins pass rusher, but I feel pretty confident that it puts him in the top-3.
Redskins all-time sack leaders
The Mt. Rushmore of Redskins pass rushers?
All this history makes me ask the question: Who belongs on the Redskins’ Mt. Rushmore of pass rushers?
I think that the first three names on the list are no-brainers. In no particular order, the three players that have to be there are Charles Mann, Dexter Manley and Ryan Kerrigan.
Manley, Kerrigan and Mann are Nos. 1, 2 and 3 on the Redskins career sack leaderboard, and they are all among the top-7 in Games played as a Redskin and Sacks per Game.
I think it’s pretty clear that these three guys absolutely belong on the mountain.
Dexter Manley is the current all-time sack leader in Redskins history. Not only that, but, at a rate of .728 sacks per game (see chart above) he is easily the most efficient sack artist ever to play in the burgundy & gold. Officially, Manley had 97.5 quarterback sacks in his career, but his total rises to 103.5 when the six sacks he had in his rookie year of 1981, when sacks were not yet an official statistic, are included
Manley’s path, both as a player and in his post-NFL-retirement, has never really been smooth. Here’s a bit about him published by HTTR4Life.com:
Dexter Keith Manley (A.K.A. “The Secretary of Defense”) was ... outspoken and a bit cocky. In his 125 games that spanned 9 seasons, Manley recorded 91 sacks, he had 18.5 in 1986, his best year. Although his career is tainted in some ways due to his battles with drugs and crime away from the football field, Manley is still held close to the hearts of Redskins fans.
Manley was a huge part of the Redskins’ most successful teams:
- 2× Super Bowl champion (XVII, XXII)
- Pro Bowl (1986)
- First-team All-Pro (1986)
- 70 Greatest Redskins
- Washington Redskins Ring of Fame
In 2002, he was selected as one of the 70 Greatest Redskins of All Time and is a member of the Washington Redskins Ring of Fame.
Mann was drafted in the third round of the 1983 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins and by his second season, he was the starting left defensive end, opposite Dexter Manley. During this time, Mann had double-digit sack seasons four times, including a career-high 14.5 in 1985, which was just his third season in the NFL.
Mann finished his career with the Redskins with 82 sacks, second-most in franchise history at that time, and 17 forced fumbles, the most in franchise history at the time (Kerrigan currently has 25).
He also was part of the Redskins teams that won Super Bowl XXII and Super Bowl XXVI. He was released by the Redskins and signed as a free agent with the San Francisco 49ers in 1994, where he earned another Super Bowl ring (Super Bowl XXIX) before retiring.
I believe Charles Mann is the only Redskins player I’ve ever seen in person. In the mid-80’s, when he was terrorizing quarterbacks on the field, I was working at a sandwich shop in Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax Virginia. One day, I made a sandwich for his wife as Mann stood next to her. Pretty cool.
Mann was a contrast to his teammate Dexter Manley. In temperament, he was more like Art Monk. Here’s a description from HTTR4Life.com:
While Manley was the bigger character and overall all better pass rusher, Mann was a consistent leader that showed up every year and gave Pro Bowl caliber seasons year after year.
Charles Andre Mann played in 163 games over the span of an 11 year career in Washington that netted him 82 sacks, and 784 tackles as a Redskins player. Mann was a born leader who was drafted in the third round of the 1983 draft by the Redskins. His best year was in 1985 when he registered 14.5 sacks and 85 tackles.
His  regular season sacks combined with the 10 sacks he recorded in the NFL Playoffs place him among the elite players of the NFL. Mann has been nominated for the NFL Hall of Fame [ten] times and inducted into the Ring of Stars at Washington Redskins Fed-Ex Field. Charles is a proud member of the 70 All-Time Great Washington Redskins.
In 1993 Mann and Art Monk created the Washington, DC Youth Power Center, formerly known as The Good Samaritan Foundation. As Chairman and co-founder Mann has led this successful non-profit which tutors and develops inner-city youth on the critical behaviors and functional skills necessary to succeed in the community and workplace.
Ryan Kerrigan played college football at Purdue, where he was recognized as a unanimous All-American, and was drafted by the Redskins in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He is the all-time leader for consecutive starts by a left outside linebacker in NFL history.
As mentioned earlier in this article, Kerrigan will almost certainly become the official all-time sack leader in Redskins history; however, he has already played 3 more games as a Redskin than did Dexter Manley, and it will likely take another 5 - 10 games to break the record, meaning that he hasn’t matched Manley’s level of efficiency. Given that Manley had another six sacks before sacks became an official NFL statistic, it may be 2020 before Kerrigan can claim the “unofficial” title as well.
Still, consistency is a huge factor to be taken into account when assessing Kerrigan’s career. He has never yet missed an NFL game. He has never had less than 7.5 sacks in a season in his career (and his lowest sack total came in his rookie season).
Kerrigan is known as a leader on the field and in the community. He is a true professional.
- 4× Pro Bowl (2012, 2016–2018)
- PFWA All-Rookie Team (2011)
- Unanimous All-American (2010)
- Bill Willis Trophy (2010)
- Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year (2010)
- Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year (2010)
- First-team All-Big Ten (2010)
But who should be the fourth player on the Redskins’ Mt. Rushmore of pass rushers?
I have four candidates in mind
Monte Coleman, 1979-94
Monte Coleman was a great Redskins linebacker who played sixteen seasons in burgundy and gold. He is 4th on the Redskins’ all-time official career sack list with 43.5, but, when it comes to games played for the Redskins, he is first among the top-20 sack artists listed above, with 215 games, and is second all-time among all Redskins behind only Darrell Green.
Coleman played for the Redskins in parts of three decades: the 1970s, the 1980s, and the 1990s. He is one of only three men to play at least 16 seasons with the franchise, along with quarterback Sammy Baugh (16) and Darrell Green (20). But even if you credit Coleman’s unofficial 56.5 sacks (which include those accumulated before sacks became an official NFL statistic), his efficiency rate is among the lowest of the sack leaders listed in the chart above.
Monte Coleman is listed as one of the 70 Greatest Redskins of All Time and is a member of the Washington Redskins Ring of Fame.
Ken Harvey, 1994-98
Harvey, too, is among the 70 Greatest Redskins, though he began his career with the Cardinals and played only 5 seasons with Washington. His 41.5 official sacks put him 5th on the Redskins’ all-time career sack list, though he accumulated 89 sacks total in his 11-year career, putting him in company with Mann and Kerrigan. Harvey made 4 Pro-Bowls in his 5 seasons as a Redskin.
His sack efficiency as a Redskin was elite, at .561 sacks per game — putting him in 4th place behind Dexter Manley, Ryan Kerrigan, and Brian Orakpo. He got 9 or more sacks in six seasons, including three of his five Redskins seasons. His highest single season sack total came while playing for Washington in 1994.
Brian Orakpo, 2009-14
Brian Orakpo played 10 seasons in the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for the University of Texas, was recognized as a unanimous All-American, and was drafted by the Redskins with the thirteenth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. He also played for the Tennessee Titans, and was selected to four Pro Bowls.
Orakpo was extremely productive in Washington. As you can see from the chart above, he ranks 6th in total career sacks among Redskins players, with 40, despite playing only 6 season with the team that drafted him.
Among Redskins with at least 20 official career sacks, Orakpo ranks 3rd all-time in efficiency, at a rate of .563 per game — better than every other player except Dexter Manley and Ryan Kerrigan.
What really hurt Orakpo’s career in DC was injury. He played only 2 games in 2012, and 7 games in 2014. Earning $11.4m on a franchise tag in 2014, the front office — apparently frustrated with 2 injury-shortened seasons in three years — let him leave in free agency in 2015. He played all 16 games for the Tennessee Titans over the next three seasons, averaging just over 8 sacks per season, but he wasn’t the force he had shown himself to be in his first 5 years in the league, when he had averaged just under 10 sacks per 16-games.
Orakpo went to 3 Pro Bowls as a Redskin, and 4 Pro Bowls total in his 10-year career. He retired with 66 career sacks with the Redskins and Titans.
Dave Butz, 1975-88
One might reasonably ask why a Defensive Tackle would be included here, but if you have to ask, you probably never saw Dave Butz play. When I think of connections between the current Redskins and the teams of 30 years ago, I find that Matt Ioannidis puts me in mind of Dave Butz in terms of style of play.
You can get a few looks at Big #65 starting from the 11:45 mark of this NFL Films classic
Butz was 6’8” and 295 pounds at a time when there were very few 300 pound players in the NFL, and was perhaps most famous for his scarred helmet, which John Madden seemed to be endlessly fascinated with.
Although he started his career with the Cardinals, Butz played 14 years with the Redskins, coming to the team originally in a trade to play for George Allen, and staying long enough to win two Super Bowls with Joe Gibbs.
Although his official sack total puts him 7th on the all-time career list with 35.5, it should be remembered that sacks didn’t become an official statistic until 1982, after Butz had already been a Redskin for 7 years.
Unofficially, Dave Butz has been credited with 59.5 sacks, which would put him in 4th place, just ahead of Monte Coleman. While Butz is just ahead of Monte Coleman in unofficial sacks, he is just behind Coleman in games played as a Redskin, at 203.
Redskins coach George Allen gave the Cardinals two first-round draft picks and a second-rounder for the right to Butz, who appeared in three Super Bowls with Washington. He was a one time Pro Bowler in 1983 in a season in which he got eleven sacks, a career best. He only missed four games in his entire 16-year career. When he retired, he was the oldest starting player in the NFL.
Other awards & honors:
- First-team All-Pro (1983)
- Second-team All-Pro (1984)
- NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1983)
- NFL 1980s All-Decade Team
Who belongs on the Redskins’ Mt. Rushmore of pass rushers together with Manley, Mann and Kerrigan?
This poll is closed