Pass rushers are the easiest players to evaluate incorrectly, because the statistic that most fans use to try and rate pass rushers is sacks. But the problem with sacks is that they only give part of the picture regarding a pass rusher, because they don’t tell you two crucial things. Firstly, they don’t tell you how many times a pass rusher put pressure on the QB but did not get the sack, and they also don’t take into account how much an opponent focused on trying to block them. Several top-flight pass rushers do an excellent job of opening things up for their teammates, because offenses are so busy trying to block them out of the game. It’s kind of the same thing that happens with No. 1 wide receivers.
Washington Redskins outside linebacker Brian Orakpo is one of the best in the business, but there are those who believe his play has slipped of late due to the fact that he has just three sacks this year. I’m hear to tell you that anybody who thinks Orakpo isn’t playing well this season is full of it, because the man has done an amazing job of consistently putting pressure on the QB. He’s the most talented player on the Redskins defense, and he’s been the best player on their defense this season as well. Orakpo plays the run pretty well, he has enough athleticism to drop off in coverage if needed as a 3-4 OLB, and he continues to be an efficient pass rusher when it comes to pressuring the quarterback.
Based on the statistics that I have at my disposal, Brian Orakpo has hit the quarterback eight times this season, he has four passes defended (one interception for a TD on the first INT of his career), and he also has six tackles for loss. Fellow OLB Ryan Kerrigan has also played well and has bigger numbers than Orakpo, but Orakpo has been busy doing the dirty work.
Just take a look at this quote from defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, via the Washington Post’s Mark Maske, “Last week he got chipped 22 times. The tight end was there 22 times. So that’ll tell you something about who everybody thinks … has the ability to get a lot of sacks. They were trying to take Brian out of the game. So he got chipped a lot. He got hit a lot. That kind of happens. Plus, you don’t get a lot of sacks on Peyton [Manning], anyway. … The guy gets the ball out of his hand fast and everything. But it just shows you when they stick a tight end over there to chip him … what kind of guy he is.”
As Haslett says later, that’s been the story of the season for Orakpo; gaudy stats are tough to come by when he’s being chipped on most snaps. While the rest of the defense has been busy missing tackles, Orakpo has been more sure-handed than those guys. Despite having four missed tackles of his own, per the Pro Football Focus, Orakpo has the least missed tackles of any player in the back eight who gets significant playing time.