Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo during the second half of the season has made a strong case for himself while racking up seven sacks in the last six games and also averaging 5.3 tackles an outing during that same stretch.
Orakpo now leads the Redskins with 10 sacks this season. Orakpo, who ranks fifth on the team with 58 tackles, also recorded an interception, which he returned for a touchdown.
Orakpo will become a free agent this offseason, and it remains to be seen what kind of a payday he will receive. One of his contemporaries, Green Bay’s Clay Matthews, this past offseason signed a five-year contract extension worth an average of $13.2 million per season. But the matter of whether or not Orakpo, a two-time Pro Bowl pick, is on the same level as Matthews.
But Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said on Thursday that he considers Orakpo elite, and that in his opinion, the fifth-year pro has proved his worth this season.
“I think the guy is a heck of a player and I think he showed what he’s worth to this organization over the four [full] years,” Haslett said. “He’s been very successful, obviously he’s a heck of a rush guy, but the other things he does besides that he’s outstanding, you know, covering tight ends and backs to the flat and in the run game.”
As fans and analysts try to get a feel for whether or not Orakpo truly is an elite player, the fourth-year pro is often compared to Matthews, Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware, or lately, Indianapolis’ Robert Mathis or St. Louis’ Robert Quinn.
Orakpo has recorded two double-digit sack campaigns in the last five seasons (last year he missed all but two games with injury), while many of the top pass-rushers in the league record double-digit sacks on a regular basis.
But Haslett said numbers only tell part of the story when it comes to Orakpo’s worth and capabilities compared to the elite pass-rushers in the league.
“I don’t know what you’re calling elite, but I’ll say sack-wise, numbers-wise, he’s got 10, and you’ve got Mathis, who has [16.5 sacks], who rushes [the quarterback] every down, Quinn, who has 15 I think, he rushes every down — I don’t know who else is in between — but I would say that’s fair because [Orakpo] doesn’t rush every down,” Haslett said. “He rushes every time on third down or nickel, but he does drop into coverage. He’s really good in the run — I think him and Ryan [Kerrigan] are two of the best I’ve been around at covering people, so I don’t think it’s fair [comparison].”