Brian Orakpo is getting sacks, but Washington Redskins want others to join him

The Washington Post's group of football insiders preview the Redskins' formidable challenge Sunday against the 7-4 Giants.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 3, 2010; 1:42 AM

As opposing coaches game plan for the Washington Redskins , it doesn't take much film study to figure out who poses the biggest threat to their quarterback. The imbalance of the Redskins' pass rush allows teams to expend most of their energy trying to contain linebacker Brian Orakpo, who has 81/2 sacks through 11 games.

"People are really concentrating on him," defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. "For him to have 81/2 is kind of amazing, to be honest with you, because people are sliding to him, chipping to him. They know where he's at."

Despite the praise coaches heap on Orakpo, the team's pass rush has not matched preseason expectations. With 22 sacks this season, the Redskins are tied for 18th in the league. While some teams might be content to be near the middle of the pack, the Redskins certainly figured to put more pressure on quarterbacks this season by changing their base formation and introducing a variety of new blitz packages.

Asked if he's pleased with the Redskins' pass rush so far, Haslett said: "Not necessarily."

"I would like the total to be a little bit more," he said.

The Redskins are on pace to finish the season with 32 sacks. Last year, playing a more conservative brand of defense, they totaled 40. Most of the pressure has come from Orakpo, whose 36 quarterback hurries are more than double the number of any teammate. Haslett's system is designed to allow multiple defenders to chase the quarterback, and for it to succeed, other Redskins have break to through.

"I think you always have to have two or three [pass rushers] to have a really good defense," he said.

Haslett's best defenses, in fact, thrived on multiple pass rushers. In New Orleans in 2000, La'Roi Glover finished the season with 17 sacks, Joe Johnson had 12 and Darren Howard chipped in 11. Plus, Keith Mitchell had 61/2 and Willie Whitehead had 51/2.

"I don't know if you'll ever get those numbers again, but that's why you had the numbers," Haslett said. "Right now, we got one guy [with a large number of sacks], and then we got it a little bit scattered everywhere."

Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who's only on the field for passing downs, is second on the team with 2 1/2 sacks. Among the linebackers, Rocky McIntosh and Andre Carter each have two sacks, and Lorenzo Alexander and London Fletcher have 1 1/2 each.

Coach Mike Shanahan spent his year away from the NFL studying the 3-4 defense and he brought in Haslett to implement it. The goals were clear: attack, cause turnovers and put more pressure on the quarterback. The team's defensive front is supposed to occupy offensive linemen and create lanes for others to make plays. Linebackers, safeties and corners all thought they might be blitzing more often.

Fletcher concedes he thought he'd blitz more than he has, but McIntosh says compared with last year, linebackers are still getting more opportunities. With LaRon Landry hobbled by an Achilles' tendon injury, defensive backs have rarely blitzed since early in the season.

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