When Patriots quarterback Tom Brady lines up under center on Sunday, he’ll be measured by two potent pass rushers in Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. This developing duo has combined with 12.5 sacks, and has headlined a Redskins pass rush that ranks second in the NFC in sacks.
Yesterday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick spoke with the Washington media, and praised the selection and development of rookie linebacker Ryan Kerrigan.
“Ryan’s, I think, had a tremendous year,” he said. “He’s a very consistent player. He’s physically strong and he’s tough. He lines up play-after-play and takes on tight ends and tackles. He does a great job in the running game. He’s rushed the passer well.”
One of the plays that impressed Belichick the most, was the blitz-tipped pass-interception-touchdown that put Kerrigan on the NFL map in Week 1.
“He’s very instinctive, he’s got a good feel for what’s happening on plays,” he said. “Screen passes. Things like that he doesn’t get fooled a lot. You don’t see him get beat by the same thing twice. He plays it better. He’s been very impressive.”
Brady, himself, would tend to agree.
Yesterday, Brady talked to the Boston media about what it’s like to go up against a front seven that loves to bring the heat (via ESPN Boston’s Steven Krasner):
“They’re good, very good,” Brady said. “They’re good rushing the quarterback, and they’re good in coverage. It seems like every week we’re talking about good pass rushers, guys who can collapse the pocket, strip sack, and even if they’re not sacking the quarterback, they’re forcing the ball out [of the QB’s hands] quickly.”
But don’t be too fooled by the praise. Although the Patriots gave up a season-high four sacks to the Jets in Week 5, they gave up only one last week against the Colts’ Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
Brady has made a career of finding the open man, and has a few tricks up his sleeve to combat an aggressive pursuit.
“You have to get rid of the ball quickly when you’re playing against good pass rushers,” Brady said. “You don’t have a lot of time to just sit back there and make decisions. If you’re playing those guys, you have to throw quick, use screens, draws and traps–because if you let those guys tee off, it’s hard.”
About as ‘hard’ as a 260 pounds of determination to the rib cage.
With the Redskins shut out of sacks last week for the first time all season, look for them to get after the quarterback and look to make Brady uncomfortable.
Given the Patriots’ respect for the linebackers, it’s only fair to prove them right.
Orakpo credits Brady’s preparation for his success, plans to “disrupt” him through execution and disguises:
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