It took most of the 2011 season, but the rest of the league has finally caught on to the fact that the Redskins are doing something special at outside linebacker. It’s interesting what a difference 12 months can make.
In ProFootballFocus.com’s analysis of the most productive edge-rushers in the NFL, the Redskins are one of exactly two teams (Eagles) with a pair of edge rushers in the Top-20. This stands in stark contrast to last offseason, when the Redskins forewent a franchise quarterback in the first rounds in order to secure a pass-rush complement to Brian Orakpo.
So, what determines a player’s pass rushing productivity? The folks at PFF have developed a complicated formula (Sacks + 0.75 (Hits + Hurries)/ Number of Pass Rushing Attempts * 100 = PRP), which highlights the 4-3 defensive ends and 3-4 linebackers that are able to disrupt the offense with the greatest frequency.
Redskins veteran Brian Orakpo blitzes from the blindside of a right-handed quarterback, and is the 11th-ranked edge rusher in football. Redskins rookie Ryan Kerrigan blitzes into the grill of right-handed quarterbacks, and was ranked 20th in the league for edge rush production.
After only a year together on the job, this devastating duet has big potential for the future. Here are just a few of the reasons why:
1. Brian Orakpo can finally draw single coverage on the rush. In his rookie season, Orakpo took the league by storm, collecting 11 sacks and earning a Pro Bowl nod. He didn’t suffer from a sophomore slump in 2010, but the lack of a legitimate pass rush from the opposite side led to double teams and down statistics. He rebounded with nine sacks in 2011, including three in the last three games. The offense can’t double-team every pass-rusher, and Kerrigan’s development is Orakpo’s paradise.
2. Ryan Kerrigan overcame long odds to start in Week 1. Regardless of the success that Kerrigan had in 2011, it came in spite of the fact that he was: A.) a rookie drafted during a lockout, B.) in the process of changing positions in training camp, and C.) overcoming a knee injury at the start of training camp. Kerrigan is a poster child for the success of “mental reps,” and showed that he was durable and athletic enough to battle from the two-point stance. He is the only player on defense that did not miss a single snap in 2011.
3. Redskins brass can focus on other areas for the foreseeable future. Knock on wood, because nothing is certain in football or life. But with the success (16.5 sacks, five fumbles) and durability (32 combined starts) exhibited in 2011 are any indication, the Redskins brass can focus on other areas of need for now. The team still has depth at the position in case of injury, with fellow 2011 draft pick Markus White able to develop behind Lorenzo Alexander and Rob Jackson. If all goes according to plans, an area of need has transformed into a major strength in just 12 months.
Redskins history has been marked by strong defensive teams, with an emphasis on getting after the opposing quarterback. Not since 1983–when the Redskins drafted Charles Mann to join Dexter Manley–have the Redskins had this type of presence at edge rusher.
Whether or not they live up to the production of Mann and Manley will take years determine, but the pair is off to a good start.
Tags: Brian Orakpo, charles mann, dexter manley, kerrakpo, outside linebacker, pass rush, ryan kerrigan, washington redskins
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