Charles Mann watches Washington’s Andre Carter and Brian Orakpo rush the passer and smiles, thinking about when he and Dexter Manley terrorized opposing quarterbacks for the Redskins in the 1980s.
Carter and Orakpo have been playing together for only one season, but they are already turning heads while wreaking havoc in enemy backfields. Each player has 11 sacks, and their combined total leads the league and is tied for fifth in Redskins history.
“It’s a stretch on the comparisons right now, but if we go into next season and they’re still rolling like this, then you can throw out all kinds of comparisons,” said Mann, who teamed with Manley for a Redskins record 29.5 sacks in 1985, a year before they racked up 28. “If you have pressure on only one side of the pocket, the passer will go to the other side. You need more of a two-headed monster to be able get the sacks these guys are getting.”
With one more sack, the Carter-Orakpo tandem will move up the list behind only the aforementioned Manley-Mann campaigns and Manley and Monte Coleman’s 24-sack season in 1984.
“I never imagined we could be this good together,” said Carter, who had just four sacks in 2008 when Jason Taylor and Demetric Evans shared the opposite end. “I knew Brian would help us, but this has been phenomenal.”
Orakpo - who starts at strongside linebacker but moves to right end on passing downs - and Carter - who starts at right end but shifts to left end on passing downs - reached new heights last Sunday with six sacks at Oakland. Orakpo’s four tied a franchise record held by Manley, Harvey, current left end Phillip Daniels and former tackle Diron Talbert.
“[During the] game, I said to Brian, ‘You got three, huh? [Darn] it! I’m gonna catch up to you,’ ” Carter said, laughing. “I love rushing on the right side, but you kinda take one for the team because Brian’s better off the right. Rushing off both sides has made me a better player, which I’m very thankful for.”
Orakpo, drafted 13th overall in April, is just 3.5 sacks shy of the NFL rookie record set by Tennessee’s Jevon Kearse in 1999.
“When Brian got drafted here, he looked like Jevon,” said Redskins secondary coach Jerry Gray, who was on the Titans’ staff when Kearse was a rookie. “The guys get off the football so fast and they’re relentless.”
Relentless is also the adjective Mann used to describe Carter, who will start a team-high 61st consecutive game Monday against the New York Giants.
“Great pass rushers - Bruce Smith, Reggie White, Clyde Simmons, whoever you want to throw out there - we all kind of had a go-to move,” Mann said. “I don’t see Andre that way. I see him as relentless. His tenacity gets him to the quarterback.
“And he’s do durable. You can count on him. And something clicked this year for him in terms of his willpower, his get to the quarterback no matter what.”
Certainly having free agent addition Albert Haynesworth in the middle has made a difference for Carter, but last week’s huge game came with the massive All-Pro tackle out with a sprained ankle. The real difference has been Orakpo.
“Carter has always been a most difficult guy to have to contend with [and] the young player has definitely made his presence felt,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.
Mann said Orakpo has “the total package” and is the best Redskins rookie he has seen since Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green, who debuted in 1983.