NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Derrick Morgan is having the best season in his seventh year in the NFL, while Brian Orakpo on the other side of Tennessee’s defensive line is just two sacks shy of matching his career high.
Together, the Titans linebackers are taking down quarterbacks as good as any duo in the NFL.
Morgan has eight sacks, while Orakpo has nine for a total of 17. Only Cliff Avril (10) and Frank Clark (7½) of Seattle have more combined sacks, and that’s by just a half sack.
“Those two guys right there are game-changers, and when those two are rolling there’s nobody out there that can stop them,” Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey said.
“So it’s really hard for an offensive line to contain either one of them. And when you get guys like that rushing off the edge, it makes the game a lot easier for the guys in the middle and for the secondary, makes the game 10 times easier for them.”
Morgan, the Titans’ first-round pick in 2010 out of Georgia Tech, and Orakpo now find themselves in a race to see who can become the first Tennessee player to pile up double-digit sacks since Casey had 10½ in 2013.
“That’s any edge defender’s goal is to get to double digits,” Morgan said. “That’d be something special if we were both able to get to double digits and finish off the year strong.”
Orakpo had 11 sacks as a rookie with Washington in 2011 and had 10 in 2013 also with the Redskins. This already marks his best season since then, and Orakpo already has 32 quarterback pressures with five games left — five shy of what he totaled all of last season.
Padding the sack level to 10 or higher is much more special since the quarterback winds up on the ground.
“Oh, that’d be huge not only for me and him because of how hard we work together since day one, but for this franchise and organization.” Orakpo said. “I love working with the guy. We both bring it. We both complement each other very well.”
The Titans (5-6), who visit Chicago (2-8) on Sunday, haven’t had this kind of production from a defensive duo since 2010 when Jason Babin (12½) and Dave Ball (seven) combined for 19½ sacks.
Defensive end Jevon Kearse (14½) and linebacker Eddie Robinson (six) combined for 20½ sacks in 1999 when this franchise reached its lone Super Bowl.
Two Titans each with double-digit sacks? That would be a first since 1999 when this franchise was renamed the Titans.
Morgan’s production is special to the linebacker who has fought injuries since being drafted, playing a full 16 games only in 2012 and 2014.
He had 6½ sacks in each of those seasons, limited by not having a strong pass rush threat on the other side. He said he thanks God for his success, especially the teammates around him.
This is what the Titans envisioned when they signed Orakpo in March 2015 to a four-year deal and brought back Morgan with a four-year deal as well.
“I think you’ve seen the tale of two years,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. “One year you don’t, and then one year you do. You see really a force from both sides.
“You’re seeing other guys getting involved with the pressure. It’s evident when you can have two edge rushers that are having success, one can play off the other. … They’re both having success because of each other.”
Notes: LT Taylor Lewan (left knee) was limited in practice. TE Phillip Supernaw (concussion protocol) did not practice. RB DeMarco Murray (toe on right foot) and CB Brice McCain (knee) practiced fully.