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Giving Brian Orakpo His Due

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Why Brian Orakpo is still a key cog in the Redskins defense.

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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Redskins starting ROLB Brian Orakpo has taken some flak from much of the Redskins fanbase over the past year plus, but much of it is unwarranted as he remains an integral cog in the Redskins defense.

The complaint with Brian Orakpo seems to be he's not productive enough and only has "one pass rush move". With the exception of last year when he was injured Brian Orakpo has been very productive in his Redskins career and one of the better starters in the league.

People seem to point to the fact that he's only had double digit sacks once in his career, and that was his rookie season. The fact is though sacks only tell part of the story for a pass rusher. To view them as just a number in relation to games played is unfair given that if you play a team that runs the ball 40 times and only drops back to pass 20 times in the game, it's a lot harder to produce sacks than when you are facing a team throwing the ball 40 times a game. Also 3-4 rush linebackers drop in to coverage far more frequently (depending on the team), further reducing opportunities to get after the quarterback.

A much better thing to look at is a players pass rush snaps and a players productivity based on those numbers. Pro Football Focus tallies the number of rushes by a player  which helps us compare individual pass rushers. Another thing they do is they tally up quarterback hits and pressures. That might not be a stat you can easily find elsewhere, but they are stats that highly matter to teams.

Seeing the whole picture of Brian Orakpo's impact, shows that not only is Orakpo not under-performing, but he is actually extremely productive. Orakpo's 2011 is the perfect example for why it is important to look at his numbers in a full context. Orakpo might have had 9 sacks, but he had 59 total combined pressures and sacks, which ranked top 10 in the league among all pass rushers that year. And if you look at his number of pass rushes, his season is arguably better than Terrell Suggs and Jason Pierre-Paul, two of the top pass rushers that year.

Orakpo is continuing right where he left off in 2011, as he's got 19 combined pressures and sacks so far, which not only leads the team, but is tied for 2nd (with 4 others) among all 3-4 rush linebackers to start this season. While Ryan Kerrigan is right on Orakpo's heels with 17 combined pressures/sacks, Orakpo is doing it at a far better rate.

He's averaging a pressure or sack every 6 pass rushes, while Kerrigan is averaging one every 7.24 pass rushes. For comparison Kerrigan averaged one every 8.25 snaps last year and that was considered good. Paul Kruger led all 3-4 pass rushers last year with a 6.52 rate. While Orakpo's rate is likely to rise some, in 2011 Orakpo finished the year at a 6.49 rate which was 4th among rush linebackers that year (Aldon Smith, Cameron Wake and Demarcus Ware).

Orakpo came through in a big way in Oakland and not just as a pass rusher. With the offense struggling to move the ball, the defense had to win the game. Orakpo not only had two sacks and multiple pressures, but he came up with two clutch tackles (something that he struggled with earlier this year). The first on 3rd and 1 from the Redskins 33 yard line forced the Raiders to attempt a 52 yard field goal in the third quarter. The second one was on the Raiders final big drive where, they went for it on 4th and inches from the 17 yard line. Orakpo came over the top of the line to stop Matt Flynn for a loss. If Orakpo didn't make either of those tackles the outcome of the game could have been much different.

Now this is all not to say that Brian Orakpo is the greatest pass rusher in the game, or the best all-around defensive player on the Redskins. What it does say is that Brian Orakpo has played at a very high level and continues to do so. He's making a major impact on the Redskins defense, and is not easily replaced. He deserves the fans support and should be considered a piece to build around for the future.