The Redskins can have few complaints about Brian Orakpo as he finishes his third season.
The 13th overall selection in the 2009 draft, Orakpo made such a smooth transition from college defensive end to the NFL outside linebacker that he was chosen for the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2009, when he led Washington with 11 sacks.
Orakpo went back to the Pro Bowl in 2010, when he topped the Redskins with 8.5 sacks. And although his total of seven sacks is a half-sack behind fellow outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan for the team lead this season heading into Sunday's season finale at division-rival Philadelphia, the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Texas product has been better in 2011 than he was in 2010, according to defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.
With his next half-sack, Orakpo will move into eighth place in Redskins history. At his current pace, Orakpo would crack Washington's top five by the end of 2012, and he'd rank third behind only former Pro Bowl defensive ends Dexter Manley and Charles Mann by the end of 2013.
But it might not be simple for Orakpo to add to his sack total against Eagles.
When it comes to NFC East games, Orakpo has been virtually sackless. It took him 17 games to finally register a full sack against an NFC East opponent. The former All-America defensive end at Texas has 25 sacks in his 29 games against the rest of the league, but he had just a half-sack against Dallas, New York and Philadelphia before he finally got to the Giants' Eli Manning late in the fourth quarter of Week 15.
"I think it's always good (to end the drought) because he has to hear about it, he has to read about it," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. "You have a guy who's playing extremely hard, (but he's) not getting it done against NFC East opponents. He wants to prove to everybody that he can make a play when it counts, and he did."
Orakpo said, "I (wanted) to get the monkey off my back, man. I don't know (why it took so long). I'm close a lot of times. I (was) just never been able to finish the play."
Indeed, Orakpo drew a holding call on Cowboys backup tackle Alex Barron that negated what would have been the winning touchdown in the 2010 opener, and he was also held by Giants left tackle David Diehl to nullify a touchdown pass from Manning to Hakeem Nicks on the drive before Orakpo finally recorded his first sack in divisional play.
Orakpo will try to add the Eagles' Michael Vick -- against whom he had a half-sack in 2010 -- to his list Sunday.
"Mike Vick's next, but then I want (Dallas quarterback Tony) Romo," Orakpo said.
And even if Orakpo fails to get Vick on Sunday, he's not displeased with a season in which he has already matched his career high with 56 tackles and equaled the two forced fumbles he registered during his previous two seasons combined.
"I think I'm playing great," Orakpo said. "Even though I'm not getting the numbers (of sacks) that everybody wants me to get, I'm able to still put pressure (on opposing quarterbacks) and do the things I need to do to get better. Towards the end of the season, I always tend to hit a wall, but I'm continuing to get stronger. The most important thing I wanted to focus on was my (pass) coverages. It's not perfect, but I can say I'm a lot better."
SERIES HISTORY: 153rd regular-season meeting. Redskins lead series, 78-69-5. Washington won the lone playoff matchup. The Eagles have won four of the last five meetings, including a 20-13 victory in Week 6 at Washington. The most memorable game of the last 20 years was the Redskins' 31-20 triumph in the 2005 finale at Philadelphia that put Washington in the playoffs for the first time in six years and just the second time in 13 seasons.
--London Fletcher is leading the league in tackles yet again. And again, the 36-year-old inside linebacker was bypassed for the Pro Bowl in favor of San Francisco's Patrick Willis and Chicago's Brian Urlacher.
"I'm probably disappointed for maybe an hour or two when the results came out, but after that, (I'm) thankful that I'm playing at a high level, that people still consider me worthy of the Pro Bowl," said Fletcher, who has 163 tackles, three forced fumbles, two interceptions and two sacks for the 5-10 Redskins. "I've done the stuff that I can do, I control what I can control. I'm not surprised. The bottom line is we need to win more games. Teams that win typically have more players in the Pro Bowl. All those personal accolades, at the end of the day, it's all about your team goals and team accomplishments."
Fletcher said that he still wants to re-sign with the Redskins.
"Not making the Pro Bowl is not gonna weigh into my decision-making process," Fletcher said. "The organization, they all know how I feel about (being) here."
--Fletcher was just as concerned about the lack of recognition for Lorenzo Alexander, the captain and top tackler for Washington's kick coverage units, the only ones in the NFC to rank in the league's top 10 on kickoffs and punts. But Alexander wasn't even the first alternate behind the Bears' Corey Graham, the NFC's coverage player.
"There's only a couple of players in the league that ... will still go regardless of what their team is doing," said Alexander, whose 20 special teams tackles are nearly twice that of his closest teammate. "It is disappointing, but I'm very happy for Corey. If anybody deserves to go, it's him. I'm still an alternate, so who knows what can happen? You just gotta continue to work on your craft and become dominant to where it's not even a question as to whether or not you should be there."
Coach Mike Shanahan, a 27-year NFL veteran, said there shouldn't be any question that Alexander should be Hawaii-bound.
"I haven't been around a guy that has dominated more on special teams since I've been in football," Shanahan said. "I haven't been around anybody that's been close to that productive."
--With a 53-yard field goal last Saturday against Minnesota, Graham Gano tied Mark Moseley (1977) and John Hall (2003) as the only Redskins to kick four field goals of at least 50 yards in a season. Gano's 30 field goals are tied for third in Redskins history, three shy of Moseley's single-season team record, set in 1983.
"It's great to be up there with guys like that," said Gano, who's in his second full season. "You always strive to be the best. It's definitely a lot better than last year. You take away the (four) blocks, and I'm 30-for-35. I'm feeling pretty good about the way I'm hitting the ball. The experience from last year, building on that and improving during the offseason and then having one holder (Sav Rocca) have all helped. It was tough having three (Josh Bidwell, Hunter Smith and Sam Paulescu) last year. It takes time to get used to a holder, and we didn't have time with Hunter and Sam."
BY THE NUMBERS: 19-40 -- Washington's NFC East record since the division was reduced from five teams to four when Arizona moved to the NFC West in 2002.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "People ask me, 'Do you wish you would've stayed (in New York)? I like the way our (13th-ranked) defense is playing compared to the way their (28th-ranked) defense is playing. I'm very happy to be here. The future is bright for this team. We're an offseason away from being a great defense. I'm pretty happy with (my transition from 4-3 defensive tackle to 3-4 nose tackle). With a great offseason of preparation and a full training camp, I expect to be one of the top nose tackles in the game next year." -- NT Barry Cofield, on his first year with the Redskins after five years as starting defensive tackle for the Giants.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Redskins signed former Southern California running back Stafon Johnson to fill the practice-squad vacancy opened by Tuesday's promotion of receiver Aldrick Robinson to the active roster. Robinson replaced veteran running back Ryan Torain, the 2010 starter who was released after managing just 65 yards on 40 carries since he rampaged through the Rams for 135 yards on 19 carries in Week 4.
"I've been around Ryan for a number of years," said coach Mike Shanahan, who drafted Torain in Denver in 2008. "I'm really pulling for the guy. He's a great guy. He's been hampered with injuries here and there. I like the way he works, the way he prepares. You gotta make some decisions sometimes that are in the best interest of your team in the long run. ... We decided to bring Aldrick up because we thought it was best for us to give him a chance to compete next year (by being on the active roster) because we think he has a big upside."
--RB Roy Helu was limited Wednesday after missing the Minnesota game with toe and knee injuries he suffered the previous week against the Giants.
--OT Jammal Brown was limited Wednesday with a hip injury. He played last week after being limited in each practice with a groin injury.
--DE Adam Carriker was limited Wednesday with a chest injury. He has yet to miss a game this season.
--WR Donte Stallworth was limited Wednesday with an ankle injury.
--ILB London Fletcher (ankle) was limited as usual Wednesday, but he has never missed game during his 14 seasons.
If RB Roy Helu (toe, knee) misses a second straight game, Evan Royster would start again in his place.
GAME PLAN: After struggling for most of the season, Washington's offense has come alive the past three weeks, averaging 25 points and 387 yards. Evan Royster ran for 132 yards on 19 carries last week in place of ailing fellow rookie RB Roy Helu. Veteran WR Jabar Gaffney has 18 catches for 254 yards and three touchdowns the last three games. QB Rex Grossman was benched after throwing four of his 19 interceptions in the Week 6 loss to Philadelphia.
The Eagles have allowed an average of just 12 points the past three weeks after surrendering 26.5 per game beforehand. MLB Jamar Chaney and SS Kurt Coleman are the top tacklers and have seven interceptions between them, while DEs Jason Babin and Trent Cole have combined for 28 sacks.
Philadelphia's offense might not be quite as dynamic as it was during the 2010 NFC East championship season, but the Eagles are third in total yards, fifth in rushing and eighth in scoring. Michael Vick has missed three starts with a rib injury but is just 32 yards shy of 3,000 passing, and he has run for 586 yards. RB LeSean McCoy leads the NFC in rushing and all-purpose yards and is one of five Eagles with between 48 and 55 catches. Philadelphia leads the NFL with 36 turnovers, two more than Washington has lost. Redskins ILB London Fletcher is the league's top tackler, while OLBs Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo and DEs Stephen Bowen and Adam Carriker have combined for 26 sacks for the 13th-ranked defense.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Redskins OLT Willie Smith vs. Eagles RDE Trent Cole -- Smith, a rookie free agent from East Carolina, was welcomed to the NFL with a sack/fumble/TD by Pats DE Andre Carter (10 sacks) on his third snap three weeks ago. The last two weeks, the Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul (13.5 sacks) and Vikings All-Pro DE Jared Allen (18.5) beat him for two sacks and five hurries. Cole has 10 sacks, while Eagles LDE Jason Babin has 18.
Redskins LBs Ryan Kerrigan, Brian Orakpo, London Fletcher and Perry Riley vs. Eagles RB LeSean McCoy -- With Eagles QB Michael Vick having returned to human level this season after being otherworldly last year, McCoy, who leads the NFC with 1,624 yards from scrimmage, is Philadelphia's most dangerous weapon. NFL leading tackler Fletcher and Riley are Washington's chief run-stoppers, but McCoy also likes to bounce plays outside, and he has 48 catches.