The NFL is a pressure-packed environment with players fighting every day to keep their jobs and to win games. But some are under the gun more than others. Between now and the start of training camp well take a look at the players who are in the spotlight and under the most pressure to perform. Today its Brian Orakpo.When the Redskins took Brian Orakpo with the 13th pick in the 2009 NFL draft it was widely believed that they got a real steal. And with two Pro Bowl appearances and 28.5 sacks in three seasons they certainly have received solid value for the pick so far.But if the Redskins are going to get out of the basement of the NFC East and into consistent playoff contention they will need more out of Orakpo. They need him to move from being a solid player with great potential to being a great player, maybe even an elite player. Their 3-4 defense is built to pile up sacks and turnovers and it needs a star quality player at the right outside linebacker position to work to its potential.In Orakpos case, star quality would mean getting a dozen or more sacks every year. If those come, he will be getting plenty of pressures and hurries and drawing laundry piles of holding flags (he was among the NFL leaders in the latter category last year).Late last season, Jim Haslett was asked what Orakpo needed to do to take the next step. I think hes got to understand that no matter where he lines up, theyre going to have two guys on him, said the Redskins defensive coordinator. Either theyre going to chip him or theyre going to have two guys on him because theyre going to slide to him. And thats kind of way its been and he gets frustrated.Hes got to learn, like the other great rushers in the league, the Jared Allens or the Dwight Freeneys, theyre always going to have two guys on them. Hes not going to get around it and hes going to have to learn how to beat two guys.Haslet had some more tips for Orakpo. Hes going to have to learn how to work the edges a little bit more and be better under control a little bit more. I think thatll come. Hes targeted.The Redskins tried to make it so that Orakpo got targeted a little less by drafting Ryan Kerrigan in the first round. Kerrigan played well, getting 7.5 sacks after the team just got one from the left outside LB spot in 2010. But Kerrigans presence didnt help Orakpo much as his sack total went from 8.5 to 9.With an offseason of work under his belt now, it is hoped that Kerrigan will take the next step and make teams pay for giving Orakpo too much attention. If opposing offenses have to split their protection to try to devote extra resources to both outside linebackers, both Kerrigan and Orakpo will benefit.But the onus will fall on Orakpo. He is will be 26 this season and he has two years remaining on his rookie contract. Players who get double digit sacks year in and year out and can take over games when their teams need them two can make more money than players at just about any other position except quarterback.If he can shake the double teams and make the move from good to great the payoff will be huge for both Orakpo and the Redskins.Rich Tandler blogs about the Redskins at www.RealRedskins.com. You can reach him by email here and follow him on Twitter @Rich_Tandler.
PHILADELPHIA — Arguably the Redskins best player, all of the NFL knows that Trent Williams can still play at a high level while dealing with injury.
How long Williams can play though injury seems the more important question though as reports emerged the left tackle will need knee surgery at some point. That could come in the next few weeks, or as Redskins fans hope, perhaps at the end of the season.
Currently playing with a torn medial patella-femoral ligament in his right knee, the six-time Pro Bowler has not practiced since sustaining the injury three weeks ago in Kansas City. He was able to gut out a strong performance last week against the 49ers, and is expected to do the same Monday night against the Eagles.
One factor that might be pushing Williams to play with such a damaged right leg is that backup tackle Ty Nsekhe is also out after having surgery on his core muscles.
Nsekhe is expected back relatively soon, but the timeline remains murky. When he can come back, perhaps Williams will reconsider his options.
Surgery for the torn MPFL will leave Williams with a five or six-month recovery.
It's obvious the Redskins' offense is best with Williams on the field. Nsekhe, however, proved a capable backup last season when Williams served a four-game suspension.
Without Nsekhe, the Redskins would go to veteran T.J. Clemmings should Williams be unable to play. Nsekhe has not played since a Week 3 win over Oakland. The Redskins added Clemmings to the roster in early September, after their fourth preseason game. He spent the last two seasons with the Vikings.
For now, the Redskins will continue to hope Williams can play through the pain.
"Trent is a tough guy, so we will see how it works, see how feels tomorrow and go from there," Jay Gruden said of Williams on Saturday.
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Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, October 22, one day before the Washington Redskins visit the Philadelphia Eagles for Monday night football.
Today’s schedule: Travel to Philadelphia, no media availability
—Cowboys @ Redskins (10/29) 7
—Redskins @ Seahawks (11/5) 14
—Giants @ Redskins Thanksgiving (11/23) 32
Final report on injures of note:
Out: CB Josh Norman (rib)
Questionable: OT Trent Williams (knee), CB Bashaud Breeland (knee), S Deshazor Everett (hamstring), RB Rob Kelley (ankle),
Five Redskins who are under pressure vs. the Eagles
Every NFL player is under pressure and the stress increased in games that are in the prime-time spotlight like the Redskins have on Monday night. But the spotlight is brighter on some players than it is on others.
—With a banged up defense, the Redskins are going to have to put up some points to win this game. That means that QB Kirk Cousins is going to have to help the Redskins get some points on the board. In the opener against the Eagles he threw a key interception, posted a season-low 72.9 passer rating, and got sacked four times. He has been playing better since then and he may need his best game of the year for the Redskins to pull out the win.
—DT Fletcher Cox is an All-Pro caliber defender and the battle between him and G Brandon Scherff will be important. But the Eagles other defensive tackle, Timmy Jernigan, is also a handful and it will largely be up to G Shawn Lauvao to keep him under control. Jernigan isn’t a great pass rusher (1.5 sacks, 10 pressures) but he tough against the run. The Redskins needs to establish a running game to win and Lauvao vs. Jernigan will be a key battle to get the ground game going.
—There still is plenty of time for WR Terrelle Pryor to have a breakout game and turn around his disappointing season. Monday would be an ideal time to start. He has 16 receptions on the season and with the exception of a couple of plays, his impact has been minimal. When the line gives Cousins time to throw the ball he will need a big target and Pryor is the ideal candidate.
—With Jonathan Allen on injured reserve, it will be up to DE Matt Ioannidis to continue to get pass pressure up the middle. Playing with Allen, the second-year player has 3.5 sacks and 16 pressures. He will need to keep that up in Allen’s absence. On Monday, Ioannidis and the rest of the pass rushers need to get Carson Wentz on the ground when they have the opportunity.
—As much as the Redskins would like to see Wentz take a bunch of sacks, chances are he will get away from the pressure on occasion and scramble to make a play. At times like that, S D.J. Swearinger and the rest of the defensive backs need to stay in coverage and not lose their men. It’s hard to cover a receiver for five seconds or more while the quarterback scrambles around but Swearinger needs to maintain his position as the last line of defense.
Tandler on Twitter
To update this tweet from the beginning of practice, Williams did practice on a limited basis and he is questionable for the game, although it is likely that he will play.
In case you missed it
- No Norman Against Eagles
- A Very Meaningful Monday Night
- The Redskins week that was--Fallout from Allen Injury
- Fantasy Football -- Updated Week 7 rankings