- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 1, 2009

After nearly a decade of having a lackluster pass rush, this was supposed to be the season that the Washington Redskins’ front four finally broke out.

With Albert Haynesworth joining Cornelius Griffin in creating a push up the middle and top draft choice Brian Orakpo - who moves from strongside linebacker to end on passing downs - teaming with Andre Carter to bring it from the outside, the Redskins were going to make opposing quarterbacks squirm.

Instead, after three games, the Redskins are the ones squirming. Detroit rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford - not known for his feet - scampered through them for 21 yards on third-and-13 to set up the first touchdown of what would be Sunday’s upset victory by the Lions.

Washington has just four sacks - fewer than Cincinnati’s Antwan Odom and Denver’s Elvis Dumervil have by themselves. Haynesworth, who had a career-high 8.5 sacks for Tennessee in 2008, has one. The Redskins’ other sacks belong to Carter, who led the team in sacks the past three seasons; Griffin, the Redskins’ sack leader in 2004; and Orakpo, who had 11 sacks as a senior at Texas last season.

“We could step it up,” Carter said. “We need to slow our heart rates down and not put pressure on ourselves, just execute what’s called. One guy may not be in the right spot. Another guy takes a [wrong] turn. Those minimal errors add up to the point that you’re like, ‘[Oh, no].’ ”

The Redskins are on pace for only 21 sacks, just two more than they recorded in 2006, when they finished 5-11. Washington hasn’t topped 40 sacks since 2000.

Both coach Jim Zorn and defensive line coach John Palermo noted that the Lions often kept seven men in to protect Stafford and slow down the rush.

“We’ve got to find a way off those blocks,” Zorn added. “We’re going to learn how to escape those situations.”

The newly formed pass-rush quartet gave a tantalizing glimpse of what it could do in the preseason. Facing the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers during the relative handful of snaps that Haynesworth played, he collapsed the middle while Carter and Orakpo pressured quarterback Charlie Batch.

However, opposing quarterbacks have gone down just four times in 97 regular-season drop-backs.

The failure to get to the quarterback could be magnified Sunday against Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers are winless, but they have surrendered just two sacks in 120 drop-backs. And now they’ve replaced immobile quarterback Byron Leftwich with the ultraquick Josh Johnson, who ran for 1,864 yards and 19 touchdowns in college but will make the first start of his two NFL seasons.

“This kid can really run,” Palermo said. “He’s very dangerous pulling the ball down. He had a 43-yard draw [for a touchdown against Tennessee] in the preseason. The other day against the Giants, he pulled it down for 15 yards. He presents a lot of problems for your pass rush like mobile quarterbacks do.”

Just what the Redskins needed.

“We all have high expectations, and we’d all like to see more results,” said Palermo, whose rush has been credited with 21 hurries - two more a game than its 2008 average. “You only get so many opportunities, and good teams cash in on those opportunities. But I never thought and I never will think that sacks are the reason you [win or] lose.”

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