- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Washington Redskins’ record isn’t the only aspect of the club’s performance that has undergone a complete reversal since last season.

Led by veteran end Andre Carter and rookie linebacker Brian Orakpo, the Redskins already have matched the 24 sacks they recorded in all of last year.

“Last year I felt like we had some [opposing] QBs [feeling] very comfortable in the pocket,” coach Jim Zorn said. “This year, we’re making quarterbacks uncomfortable… creating just the sense of ‘I’ve got to get rid of the ball sooner.’ We’ve seen this with ourselves, so we kind of know what it does.”

Indeed, Orakpo altered the course of the Redskins’ game against the Denver Broncos on Sunday with a hit that knocked quarterback Kyle Orton out of the contest late in the first half with a sprained ankle.

Carter and Orakpo combined for three sacks - all in the second half, when the Redskins shut out the Broncos and limited them to three first downs and 36 yards en route to a 27-17 victory at FedEx Field.

“When they change quarterbacks… you kind of lick your chops a little bit and rub your hands,” Carter said. “Now it’s our time to get him flustered.”

Carter has eight sacks this season, putting him on pace for a career-high 14 - a dramatic turnaround from last season, when he recorded a career-low four.

Carter sees many reasons for the improvement: a focus on speed training during the offseason; linemates, particularly tackles Albert Haynesworth and Cornelius Griffin, who free him from double-teams; and tips that veteran backup Renaldo Wynn picked up during stints with the New Orleans Saints and the New York Giants.

“Last year, I would go against the tackle, and the guard would kind of sit there and wait or the running back would chip me,” Carter said. “[This year], I do see the guard going to [Haynesworth]. Griff, he’s the [healthiest] I’ve ever seen him.”

Orakpo already set a club record for sacks in a season by a rookie with seven, three more than any other rookie in the league.

With 15 sacks between them, Carter and Orakpo rank as the No. 3 tandem in the league behind the Colts’ Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis (17.5) and the Vikings’ Jared Allen and Kevin Williams (17).

“That’s what they drafted me for, to make big plays,” Orakpo said. “[Andre’s] a guy I’ve looked up to and admired. That’s what keeps great pass rushers hungry and able to improve - it’s competing. You don’t ever want one guy doing all the workload.”

One down note for the Redskins’ third-ranked pass rush: Haynesworth sprained his right ankle against the Broncos and is wearing a walking boot, leaving him questionable for Sunday’s game against the Cowboys in Dallas.

Rogers might stay benched

Defensive coordinator Greg Blache benched cornerback Carlos Rogers in the first quarter of the Redskins’ victory over the Broncos after he was beaten badly on a double move for a long touchdown for the second time in three games.

Zorn said Rogers, veteran Fred Smoot or second-year man Justin Tryon would start against the Cowboys. Smoot saw little playing time in October, but Monday he twice drew praise from his coach for his play against the Broncos.

“He’s got to find that confidence,” Zorn said of Rogers, who was benched by Blache last December, too. “We’re going to try to get him jump-started again. He’s not done. As we work through this week, he may very well be the guy out there. Then again, it may be just a rest. Take a breather here and then work back in.”

Dutch re-signed

The Redskins filled the practice squad vacancy created by the Nov. 14 promotion of safety Lendy Holmes to the roster by re-signing rookie free agent cornerback Doug Dutch. Dutch, a Gonzaga High graduate, was with the team last summer.

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