- The Washington Times - Friday, October 3, 2014

After being credited with just half a sack over the Washington Redskins‘ first four games, outside linebacker Brian Orakpo said Friday that he’s trying not to worry about his lagging statistics.

Orakpo’s half a sack happened in the Redskins‘ 41-10 victory over Jacksonville on Sept. 14. He has 12 tackles this season and has been credited with three hits on the quarterback.

“I just can’t get frustrated, man,” Orakpo said. “It is [true] that I’ve only got half a sack right now, but I’ve just got to keep pressing. I’ve got to keep just believing in what I’m capable of doing. I can’t get too frustrated with that. Yeah, it sucks that I’ve only got half a sack, you know?

“Obviously, through four games, I want to be up there in the ranks, but I’ve just got to keep pressing. I’ve got to not really be overly concerned with it and just keep pushing and believing what I’m capable of doing for this defense and what they’re asking me to do. Things will come. They’ll come. They’ll come in bunches, man. I’ve just got to keep pushing [and] don’t get too frustrated and lose focus out there.”

A three-time Pro Bowler, including after last season, Orakpo was given the franchise designation by the team in March instead of a long-term contract. That gave him an $11.455 million base salary for this year, which is the highest of any linebacker in the league.

As a one-year contract, it also forces Orakpo to have to earn the longer contract he covets again this season. He set a career high with 60 tackles last season, including 10 sacks — the highest since his rookie year, when he had 11 in 2009.

“Obviously, it’s a lot of pressure with having a year like that and coming back and thinking you’re gonna have your contract and then you have to do it again,” Orakpo said. “It’s frustrating. It adds more pressure to your game, but that’s one thing that mentally, I’ve just got to get out of my head. I can’t add any more pressure going into this year and finishing up these last 12 games and kind of just doing what I do best, man. That’s just being a relentless, get-after-it type of guy [with a] motor just running. The sacks will come. I’ve only got half a sack right now, but they will come. I’m a very confident player, and we’ll see what happens.”

Orakpo’s lack of production is not unique amongst the Redskins‘ pass rushers. Aside from that game against the Jaguars, when they combined for 10 sacks, they’ve managed to drop the quarterback once in the other three games.

They’ve faced a trio of quarterbacks — Houston’s Ryan Fitzpatrick, Philadelphia’s Nick Foles and the New York Giants’ Eli Manning — who have gotten rid of the ball quickly.

And, in the case of the game against the Giants, Washington’s coverage downfield was poor enough that Manning didn’t need a lot of time to find a target and throw.

“This is the ultimate team sport, man,” Orakpo said. “There’s only so much you can do in situations like that, but you can’t get too frustrated. … We’ve just got to keep being resilient and keep pushing on and doing what you can.”

For part of the past two games, Orakpo has been dealing with an injured left hand — a torn ligament in the middle finger that has prevented him from getting out of his stance and ripping past and grabbing opponents.

After injuring the finger in the Week 3 loss at Philadelphia, when he got it stuck in Eagles left tackle Jason Peters’ jersey, the team tried to minimize his pain by having him work on the left side for 20 snaps. He was back on the right side against the Giants in Week 4, but had just two tackles.

Orakpo, in his sixth season, knows that the window for a long-term contract, either in Washington or elsewhere, is closing. And, with his impact limited over the first four games, he believes his greatest danger is in trying to make up for the lack of production over the final 12 games.

“When you go through a season where you’re basically playing for a contract again, you just know it’s there,” Orakpo said. “I just want to win ballgames. That’s the No. 1 thing. We’re 1-3, so it’s disappointing that we’re in this situation, so like I said, when you have a year like that last year and you know you can improve on it and you have somewhat of a slow start, you start thinking about this and that and this and that. At the end of the day, I just want to win ball games, and everything will take care of itself.”

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