Even after just four games, the evidence is overwhelming. On Sunday, the St. Louis Rams experienced what the fast-rising tandem can do, as they dominated during a 17-10 victory at Edward Jones Dome.
Orakpo and Kerrigan made big plays throughout. Again, they provided momentum-changing moments. From start to finish, they tormented St. Louis, defeating whomever Rams coaches hoped would slow their path to quarterback Sam Bradford. Orakpo had a team-high 2½ sacks. His inexperienced partner contributed a sack and forced a fumble.
All of that only told part of the story. Their biggest contribution was in helping Washington’s defense overcome Rex Grossman’s bad closing act.
Aided by the quarterback’s shoddy overall performance (48.5 passer rating), the inept Rams were still in the game in the fourth quarter despite Washington’s heavily one-sided statistical advantage. Grossman’s second interception could have proved disastrous — but Orakpo finished strong.
With less than five minutes remaining, Orakpo had an important third-down sack to slow suddenly charging St. Louis. The Rams got the ball back with plenty of time, but Bradford — sacked seven times and battered relentlessly behind a joke of an offensive line — had nothing left.
“The sack, man, yeah, it was huge,” Orakpo said. “You could have easily given them the momentum. You could see it coming.
“Obviously, they scored [a touchdown on their previous possession]. Then they got the interception. Things were just going bad for us. We held and anchored our D. Guys made big plays.”
Dejected after their late letdown in the Monday night loss at Dallas, the Redskins got the bounce-back performance they needed, improving to 3-1 entering their bye week. Surprisingly, the Redskins are atop the NFC East. Their new duo has helped them get there.
“Man, the sky’s the limit for those guys,” strong safety LaRon Landry said. “They can be as great as they wanna be.”
Through the first quarter of Washington’s schedule, its 3-4 defense is much more effective than last season. Nose tackle is the most important position in the scheme, and Barry Cofield has been good. The Redskins upgraded at that spot. Kerrigan also is essential in the improvement.
Outside linebacker is No. 2 in 3-4 importance. The powerful rookie from Purdue provides rushing balance opposite Orakpo, and “that’s the whole premise of the 3-4 defense: get pressure on the quarterback, especially at your outside linebacker positions,” inside linebacker London Fletcher said. “What you’re seeing is that we have two very talented, young edge rushers.”
Beginning with his improbable touchdown in the season opener against the New York Giants, Kerrigan has displayed a knack for being in the correct spot. He puts himself in position to make good stuff happen.