Before beginning any coverage of today’s locker room cleaning, I would be remiss not to look back on yesterday’s Eagles game. Please appreciate that I finally found a rear-view mirror photo of the stadium for this weekly blog post.
Yesterday was supposed to be a feel-good game, sending the team into the offseason on a high note. It would have been a redemption game over a division opponent that had beaten the Redskins two straight times, including earlier this season. It would have been a showcase of young talent, and potentially a claim-staking performance for offseason free agents.
A young, depleted Redskins team played with a lot of heart yesterday, but just didn’t get the ‘W.’ On Monday morning, it hurts. But in a week or more, it will be nothing more than one-of-11 losses this season.
The important thing is the exposure and maturation of the individual players, which will hopefully translate to wins in 2012.
Here are the Redskins superlatives for outstanding play in the season finale against the Eagles:
Defensive performer: Brian Orakpo
Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo had a first-quarter sack of Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. The sack was Orakpo’s eighth of the season and his first full sack against Philadelphia in his career. He added another sack in the second quarter, forcing the fifth fumble of his career and his third of the season. Linebacker Perry Riley recovered the fumble, his second recovery of the season and of his career.
Orakpo became the first member of the Redskins to record at least nine sacks in three consecutive seasons since Dexter Manley accomplished the feat across four consecutive seasons from 1983-86.
Iron Men: London Fletcher, Ryan Kerrigan
Linebacker London Fletcher played in his 224th consecutive game, which is tied with Tampa Bay’s Ronde Barber for most among active non-specialists. It was also his 179th consecutive start, the most by any active linebacker.
Fletcher’s 224th consecutive game played tied him for second-most among defensive players since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Fletcher and Barber are now tied with former LB Derrick Brooks and former DE Kevin Carter and trail only former LB Bill Romanowski (243 consecutive games played).
Fletcher was credited with four tackles. He finished the season with 166 tackles according to NFL GSIS, the highest total of his career. His previous high according to NFL GSIS was 157, set in 2005 as a member of the Buffalo Bills.
Fellow linebacker Ryan Kerrigan successfully finished his rookie campaign, having played every snap of every game all season long. This pales in comparison to Fletcher’s ability to get up every week over the course of a career, but it shows incredible athleticism and preparation for the freshman.
Thunder and Lightning: Evan Royster and Roy Helu
Running back Evan Royster posted his second consecutive 100-yard rushing performance, rushing 20 times for 113 yards. Royster and Helu became the first Redskins running back tandem since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger to each post consecutive 100-yard rushing games during a single season.
Royster had a 28-yard run in the second quarter, tying his career long from a week ago. Helu caught a 47-yard touchdown in the third quarter, the first touchdown reception of his career. The 47-yard reception is the Redskins’ longest by a running back since Dec. 21, 2009, when Rock Cartwight caught a 51-yard pass against the New York Giants. The reception is also the longest by a rookie running back this season and the longest by a rookie running back in team history.
It’s strange to consider that neither back got an opportunity to perform as a starter until the second half of the season. After watching what these two can do with minimal offseason preparation, it should be exciting to see what they can do as a tandem going into next year.
Punting Revelation: Sav Rocca
Who else? Punter Sav Rocca placed two punts inside the 20-yard line, giving him 28 for the season and tying his career high, set last season. Rocca’s 28 punts downed inside the 20 are the fifth-most in a season in Redskins history and are the most since Tom Tupa had 30 punts downed inside the 20 during the 2004 season. Rocca finished the season with a 39.0-yard net punting average, which trails only Matt Turk’s 1996 and 1997 campaigns (39.2 yards) for the best in team history.