Reporting David Elfin
During his three seasons with the Redskins, outside linebacker Brian Orakpo has 26.5 sacks, a total that’s just half a sack shy of eighth place in franchise history. At his current pace, Orakpo will break into Washington’s top five by the end of 2012 and he’ll rank third behind only former defensive ends Dexter Manley and Charles Mann by the end of 2013.
Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said that Orakpo, who has seven sacks and 32 pressures this season, both second on the team to the totals of rookie outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, is “a better pass rusher (in his second year in the 3-4 scheme). He can play with power. He can play with speed.”
For his part, Orakpo said, “I think I’m playing great. Even though I’m not getting the numbers (of sacks) that everybody wants me to get, I’m able to still put pressure (on opposing quarterbacks) and do the things I need to do to get better. Towards the end of the season, I always tend to hit a wall, but I’m continuing to get stronger. The most important thing I wanted to focus on was my (pass) coverages. It’s not perfect, but I’m a lot better.”
And yet for all of his success, it took Orakpo 17 games to finally register a full sack against an NFC East foe. The former All-American defensive end at Texas has 25 sacks in his 29 games against the rest of the league but had just half a sack against Dallas, New York and Philadelphia before he finally got to the Giants’ Eli Manning late in the fourth quarter of Week 15.
“I think it’s always good (to end the drought) because he has to hear about it, he has to read about it,” said Redskins coach Mike Shanahan. “You have a guy who’s playing extremely hard (but he’s) not getting it done against NFC East opponents. He wants to prove to everybody that he can make a play when it counts and he did.”
Orakpo said he wasn’t worried about his lack of a sack in the division for a while, but then, “I (wanted) to get the monkey off my back, man,” Orakpo said. “I don’t know (why it took so long). I’m close a lot of times. I (was) just never been able to finish the play.”
Indeed, Orakpo drew a holding call on Cowboys backup tackle Alex Barron that negated what would have been the winning touchdown in the 2010 opener and he was also held by Giants left tackle David Diehl to nullify a touchdown pass from Manning to Hakeem Nicks on the drive before the Houston native finally recorded his first sack in divisional play.
Orakpo will try to add the Eagles’ Michael Vick – against whom he had the half sacks in 2010 — to his list in Sunday’s season finale at Philadelphia.
“Mike Vick’s next, but then I want (Dallas quarterback Tony) Romo,” Orakpo said.
He’ll have to wait until next season to try to achieve that goal, but at least the monkey’s finally off his back.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of the new book: “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.