Every practice he harped on the same thing: force turnovers. Brian Baker doesn’t just want his outside linebackers to hit the quarterback, he also wants the ball out as well.
He’s not the first coach to talk about this with his players, or even with the Washington Redskins. But Baker harped on it every practice and made it clear jarring the ball free is the goal.
"I tell them, 'Sacks get you paid; sack/strips win you games," said the Redskins' outside linebackers coach. "You look at the better pass-rushers in the league, those guys are getting the quarterback to choke the ball up. That defense is positively affecting the game. You sack the quarterback, it’s just a tackle for a loss."
Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo has not excelled in this area, with just six forced fumbles in his career. When he arrived at the quarterback in the past, he often did so without worrying about stripping the ball. He just wanted to get the guy down. He's admitted in the past it was not part of his mindset. If he creates more turnovers, his chance for the sort of contract he wants -- and one the Redskins would be willing to pay -- increase.
Baker said he knows how to change a player's mindset.
"Drill. All the time," he said. "Since I’ve been here, there has not been one time where we worked solely on wrapping up the quarterback. Maybe that will hurt us down the road, 'Oh, he never works on tackling the guy.' But we put a lot of emphasis on strips because it will definitely win games."
Among the top pass-rushers, here’s how many fumbles they’ve caused: Clay Matthews (10); DeMarcus Ware (32); Tamba Hali (27); Robert Mathis (48, with the former defensive end causing eight as an outside linebacker this past season); Terrell Suggs (27); Robert Quinn (eight, though seven came this past season); Greg Hardy (six).
Obviously there are other good pass-rushers, but that provides a sample of what they’ve done. Ryan Kerrigan has 10 in his first three seasons.
"Everything we do from a pass-rush standpoint has a sack/strip element to it," Baker said. "If you can take a sack and now strip the quarterback where you’re causing the turnover? Man, that is an impact play."