Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo off to best start of career
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee linebacker Brian Orakpo is off to the best start of his career with four sacks in four games.
With the Titans trying to shake off a 1-3 start, he wants even more.
''I want to excel in everything I do,'' Orakpo said Thursday.
''Yeah, it's definitely a fast start, and I attribute that to a lot of hard work I put in in the offseason and just playing my game. I feel very comfortable in my abilities and just got to keep coming and leading these boys.''
The three-time Pro Bowl linebacker, who turned 30 in July, actually has four sacks over the past three games and is responsible for most of Tennessee's six sacks so far. This compares to last season when he had five of his seven sacks over a four-game stretch and ranks among the best in franchise history.
This is why Tennessee signed Orakpo as a free agent coming off a season where injuries limited the linebacker to just seven games.
Orakpo, who tore a pectoral muscle three times while playing with the Washington Redskins, has started every game since coming to Tennessee and tied for the team lead with seven sacks.
Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said Orakpo's approach never changes.
''He's doing the same thing that he always does,'' LeBeau said. ''He just plays hard every down. He makes plays. He's a great leader in the game, he's a great leader on the sideline, he's a great leader in the locker room. He's just a plus. He's a coach's dream. He does the same thing every year. He doesn't know any other way to do it.''
Orakpo has become the 13th player in franchise history with four sacks within the first four games and sixth since 1999 when the team became known as the Titans. That includes Carlos Hall (2002), Kyle Vanden Bosch (2005), Albert Haynesworth (2008), Dave Ball (2010) and Derrick Morgan (2015).
If Orakpo adds another sack when the Titans play Miami (1-3), he would join Vanden Bosch, Jason Babin (2010) and Haynesworth with five or more sacks in the first five games.
''We're hoping to join him in the sack column soon enough,'' Morgan said. ''I actually think we're doing a good job of getting pressure on quarterbacks.
''It's just a matter of getting home. We're playing a lot of quarterbacks that are getting rid of the ball pretty fast as a whole. We're not getting home and getting the sack. I think that's going to come as the year progresses.''
Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill already has been sacked 11 times this season, including five in the Dolphins' 22-7 loss at Cincinnati on Sept. 29. With left tackle Branden Albert yet to practice because of illness and an ankle injury this week, Orakpo could be going against rookie Laremy Tunsil.
Orakpo said the 13th draft pick overall out of Mississippi, is bigger and more athletic than most rookie tackles. Orakpo also has confidence in his teammates who've been so close to beating a path to the quarterback, hitting the passer just as the ball has been thrown.
''We got a lot of guys frustrated in this locker room because we all want the sacks, we want to have those high sack numbers, want to be one of the tops in the league,'' Orakpo said. ''And they definitely will come.''
Notes: The Titans had The Weather Channel on at least two TVs inside the locker room Thursday monitoring Hurricane Matthew ahead of Sunday's game. The NFL is monitoring the hurricane and planning contingencies for the game in case resources are needed elsewhere for public safety. ... Titans RT Jack Conklin (shoulder) practiced fully Thursday after being limited Wednesday. TE Jace Amaro (shoulder) was limited for a second straight practice. S Da'Norris Searcy (ankle), CB Cody Riggs (hamstring) and NT Al Woods (calf) did not practice. ... Titans coach Mike Mularkey visited with members of the New Zealand soccer team after practice, and a few players tried kicking field goals with kicker Ryan Succop. New Zealand plays Mexico on Saturday night at the Titans' stadium.
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