Orakpo Could Be NFL's Best

Sack machine in line for defensive rookie award

By Chris Needham
|  Tuesday, Dec 15, 2009  |  Updated 2:16 PM EDT
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Orakpo Could Be NFL's Best

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Orakpo gazes, off into the distance, imagining another QB he can pound into the dirt.

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While the ancient Dick Stockton might not know the proper order of the consonants in his name, Skins rookie Brian Orakpo certainly made a name for himself in Sunday's win over the Raiders.  (At least Dick didn't call him O'Krap-o.)

His four sacks brought his total up to 11 on the season, leading all rookies and good for fourth highest in the league.  He's just a tick below Dwight Freeney and Jared Allen -- perhaps you've heard of them?

He's been a beast all season, and with a handful of games left, it raises the question: is he the Defensive Rookie of the Year?

Houston's Brian Cushing and Buffalo CB Jairus Byrd are both putting up gaudy numbers, but Orakpo's clearly in the mix, playing his hybrid LB/DE position.

Pro Football Weekly makes the case for what he does well:

On his first sack Sunday, Orakpo showed that he can't be blocked by tight ends or running backs — or both. He was lined up as a 7-technique linebacker on the line in a five-man rush disguised as an all-out blitz, across from the outside shoulder of Raiders TE Zach Miller. After flying off the snap, Orakpo shocked Miller with a good bull rush, used leverage to get inside of him and tossed him aside. Next up was RB Justin Fargas, who stepped up in the hole to pick up Orakpo, but Fargas — at 220 pounds — was no match. Orakpo walked him back two yards, shed Fargas and sacked QB Bruce Gradkowski...
What we have seen this season is that Orakpo is still evolving as an all-around defender, but his greatest and most natural skill right now is rushing the passer from the DRE position. He's already adept at that. And though he could evolve into more of a hybrid-type role, Orakpo excels at getting to the passer from a three-point stance, which has made him one of the favorites in an intriguing Rookie of the Year battle.

He might not be a pure linebacker, and he's certainly had some struggles in coverage, but the scheme and design of Greg Blache's defense has minimized his exposure to the weaker parts of his game while maximizing his ability to raise holy heck.

And he's raised enough of it to be a real contender for the rookie award.

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