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Improving Pass Rush A Focus For Next Season

Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett thinks the Redskins will be able to find a way to get their outside linebackers involved in rushing the passer at the same time this season.

BY ZAC BOYER

ASHBURN – Jim Haslett doesn’t believe it will be difficult to get Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and Rob Jackson all on the field at certain points this coming season.

“The question is, can you get four of those guys on the field at the same time?” Haslett said. “If there’s a way to get everybody on the field, we’ll find a way.”

The Washington Redskins finished with 32 sacks last season, which ranked a paltry 23rd in the league. Haslett, the defensive coordinator, wants those numbers to increase.

“We’ll try to put these guys in better position a little bit to get sacks,” he said. “If we get some obvious passing situations, we get a little freedom to go get the quarterback.”

Washington ranked 10th with 41 sacks in 2011, but the numbers dipped last season primarily because of injuries. Orakpo and defensive end Adam Carriker, who had 14.5 sacks between them, only played in parts of two games before going on injured reserve.

Jackson, who replaced Orakpo as a starting outside linebacker, didn’t hit his stride until the second half of the season, and Jarvis Jenkins, who stepped in for Carriker, only emerged as a threat in the passing game in the final two weeks.

The coaches even replaced Jackson on passing downs by Lorenzo Alexander midway through the season when he was struggling to get to the quarterback. An instinctual pass rusher, Jackson got the message, and he had three game-changing sacks over three weeks beginning with the Redskins’ victory over the New York Giants on Dec. 3.

The league suspended Jackson for the first four games of the season for failing a drug test, which he said was the result of using a medication containing codeine. When he’s eligible to return in Week 6 at Dallas – the Redskins have a Week 5 bye – he anticipates being thrown into the mix almost as frequently as he was last season.

“It gives me a lot of confidence,” Jackson said. “I’ve always thought I was able to play and I was a starter, and you know, being a backup, you’re supposed to think like that and have confidence. To be able to put it on tape and make the plays that I thought I could make is a huge confidence boost.”

Haslett’s question, then, centers on Brandon Jenkins, a rookie out of Florida State whom the Redskins took in the fifth round. Jenkins missed practically all of last season with a broken left foot, but the team drafted him because he was projected as a first- or second-round pick had he not gotten injured.

“I don’t think you can have enough pass rushers,” Haslett said. “We’ll try to find ways he can help us on the field, whether it be nickel or short-yardage, goal-line. We’ll figure out ways to get him involved somehow.”

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