Despite Skins' struggles, Orakpo is surging

Despite Skins' struggles, Orakpo is surging
November 30, 2013, 9:30 am
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Chase Minnifield promoted from practice squad

After racking up only three sacks in the Redskins’ first eight games this season, outside linebacker Brian Orakpo has been on a tear the past three weeks. 

He’s notched 3.5 sacks during that span to boost his season total to 6.5 and his career total to 36, pushing him past Dave Butz and into fifth on the Redskins’ all-time sack list.

“I feel selfish talking individually with us being 3-8, you know what I mean?” Orakpo said Friday at Redskins Park. “Obviously, I would love to be up there with my boy [Robert] Mathis, who has [14.5 sacks] already. But individually, I’m having a good season, I feel like.”

Indeed, Orakpo is coming on strong despite the Redskins’ overall struggles.

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He leads the team in quarterback hits (13), tackles for loss (11) and, according to ProFootballFocus.com, ranks 13th among all 3-4 outside linebackers in quarterback hurries (24). Profootballfocus.com also ranks the 27-year-old as the fifth most productive player at his position this season.

“We still have five games left to where I can get some more sacks,” Orakpo said. 

The reason for his increased production in recent weeks, he said, is a combination of growing confidence in his twice repaired pectoral muscle as well as finally shaking off the rust that had accumulated during last season's 14-game layoff.

“I was still effective [early in the season], but there still was stuff I needed to work on because I was away from the game for a long time,” Orakpo said. “Tackling better, angles, pass rush concepts, getting better leverage. As the games have gone along, I’ve been able to get the kinks out in the second half.  That’s why my numbers are improving.”

Orakpo's recent stats—and highlight reel—affirm that assertion. He’s amassed five tackles for loss to go along with his 3.5 sacks the past three games. By comparison, he had no sacks and one tackle for loss in the previous three contests.

Against the Vikings, Orakpo sacked Christian Ponder and dropped Adrian Peterson for a three-yard loss. In Philly, he notched 1.5 sacks on Nick Foles and stopped LeSean McCoy two times (once for a loss and the other for no gain). And against the 49ers, he registered a fortuitous sack on Colin Kaepernick as well as a tackle for loss on Frank Gore.

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Orakpo joked that his sack on Kaepernick—the quarterback actually slipped to the turf—was payback for other near misses in the game. “I should have ended that game with three sacks when you go back and look at the film,” he said with a laugh. “It made up for the for the ones that I missed. At the end of the day, a sack is a sack.”

At the end of the year, though, Orakpo is going to need a new contract. And what the pending unrestricted free agent does between now and Dec. 29th will have a big impact on his leverage in negotiations. If he remains on his current pace, he’ll crack double-digits in sacks, which would likely put him among the NFL’s top-20 pass rushers.

“We’ve got five more games; that’s when we can get to the business side,” he said. “Right now, my total focus is on improving and these last five games, starting with the Giants. After that, you can ask me all the contract questions in the world.”