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Redskins LBs Orakpo, Kerrigan applied relentless pressure
It's the goal of every NFL team to find playmakers in the first round of the draft. On Sunday, two of the Washington Redskins' past three first-rounders made almost every play they were asked to - disrupting Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb with a suffocating pass rush.
Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan were at the forefront of the blitzing attack that had Kolb on his heels for much of the afternoon.
"I love hunting quarterbacks," Orakpo said after the 22-21 win. "That's what I'm all about.
"I thought we did a phenomenal job putting pressure. That's the mentality we've got to have, man. We expect a lot of ourselves. I know I'm going to bring it, Ryan's going to bring it and the rest of the outside [linebackers] are going to bring it when they come in."
The final numbers included three sacks, five quarterback hits and plenty of bumps and bruises for the Cardinals quarterback.
Orakpo popped the ball loose on his second-quarter sack, and soon after Kerrigan was relieved to pick up his first career sack on a second-down play.
Kerrigan also excelled in pass coverage, tipping a ball that turned into a London Fletcher interception. For a rookie who made a quick adjustment from college defensive end to NFL outside linebacker, the growth he has shown is impressive.
"Ryan's a playmaker. He tips passes in the passing game; he gets pressure on the quarterback," Fletcher said. "He's still learning, though. He knows he's going to grow so much more."
Kerrigan looked all grown up Sunday, combining with Orakpo to torture Kolb, who had little time to make anything happen for long stretches of the game. And the frequent hits he took led the Cardinals to approach the passing game differently.
"They were getting rid of the ball very quickly in the second half," Kerrigan said. "I think that can be attributed to our defense because we were getting a lot of pressure."
For most of the game, that pressure made wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald a nonfactor. He had just five catches for 41 yards before a 73-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Arizona's biggest play of the game even included Kolb getting hit - with Fletcher crushing him from the blind side after he let go of the ball. But it's hard to blame the blitz.
"Kolb is an intelligent quarterback. He read the blitz coming, he knew which way to slide to buy him some more time," Orakpo said. "Fletch had a great hit on the back side, but he already was rolling out and knew where it was coming from."
But it was no coincidence Fitzgerald didn't take over the game. Part of that can credit can go to DeAngelo Hall, whom Fletcher praised for accepting the challenge of blanketing the All-Pro.
But so much of it centered on Kolb not being able to see him - because Orakpo, Kerrigan and others were constantly in his face.
"That's what you've got to do when you've got a player on the outside like Fitzgerald," Kerrigan said. "You've got to pressure the quarterback and not even let him get a chance to get the ball."
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