It is a matchup that demands respect and, for Eagles All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson, great technique and precision. He opens his 2019 regular season battling one of his main rivals, Washington pass-rushing extraordinaire Ryan Kerrigan in a must-watch one-on-one battle Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
"He's one of the best out there, and maybe the best. At least, that's the way I see it," Johnson said on Monday as the team returned to the NovaCare Complex after a weekend off and took part in a short practice as they began their week of preparation for Sunday's first game of the regular season. "The guy is relentless and has all the tools. I love playing against him. If I'm not at my best, he's going to get the better of me."
How good is Kerrigan, a four-time (including each of the last three seasons) Pro Bowl player who has been in double digits in quarterbacks sacks for three straight seasons and who has 84.5 sacks in 124 career games? In 16 career games against the Eagles, Kerrigan has recorded 11.5 quarterback sacks with 58 total tackles, including 13 for loss, 20 quarterback hits, and six forced fumbles. In the two meetings last season, Johnson did a terrific job against Kerrigan, who recorded one quarterback sack and two total tackles with just two quarterback hits and one tackle for loss.
But Johnson isn't resting on any laurels. He knows Kerrigan will be geared up to open the season the right way for the visiting Redskins.
"He's just a great player who has power and strength and speed. He's special," Johnson said.
You'd think, then, that the two players who have gone against each other so often through the years would engage in some kind of trash talking. The truth is just the opposite, said Johnson.
"I don't think I've ever heard Ryan Kerrigan say a word on the football field," Johnson said. "He's a total class act. I have all the respect in the world for him. The only time we've talked is when we were at the Pro Bowl together. He's a great guy and a great football player."