ASHBURN, Va. – It's not everyday someone draws a walk-off holding penalty to beat the Dallas Cowboys. The way Brian Orakpo was playing, it shouldn't have been a surprise.
The Washington Redskins linebacker drew three holding calls on Dallas tackle Alex Barron in Sunday's 13-7 win. That's 30 yards worth of setback for a Cowboys offense that came very close to pulling out the victory.
Orakpo will have to get used to it. After setting a Redskins rookie record with 11 sacks and earning a Pro Bowl berth last season, he is showing no sign of a sophomore slump. Not only is he stronger, but he's getting a chance to blitz perhaps three times as often in his new role as an outside linebacker in the team's 3-4 alignment.
The Redskins host Houston on Sunday.
"He has great leverage and he knows how to use it," fullback Mike Sellers said. "He makes a lot of linemen panic because he's one of those new guys in the league that people watch to see what he's doing. He'll be the next DeMarcus Ware, probably even a little bit better, to be honest."
Barron's hold of Orakpo in the game's final play was so obvious — he grabbed Orakpo around the neck in an act of near desperation — that many Redskins knew they had won the game before the play was completed. Tony Romo's apparent game-winning touchdown pass was negated by the penalty, but Romo likely would have been sacked if Orakpo hadn't been held.
"It's going to be fun watching him this year," defensive end Phillip Daniels said. "If they don't hold him, those are sacks."
Orakpo's maturity also is impressive. Many NFL players are still cutups in their second year in the league — behaving more like teenagers than well-paid adults. Orakpo carries himself as if he's 30.
"He is an old soul," defensive end Andre Carter said. "Everything he does is real laid-back. He's cool, calm and collected. He's old-school, like that. Brian's always been mature for his age. He's always been strong-headed, strong-willed. I'm not even worried about him."
Orakpo, who became a father this summer, has developed a rigorous Monday workout routine based on plyometrics, a type of exercise that develops both speed and power. He'll do backpedals, sidesteps, lunges and then sprint up and down a hill as many as 10 times — on a day when nearly every player is sore from the game the day before.
"It helps me get the juices flowing, get all the soreness out," Orakpo said. "Then I get that day off on Tuesday."
While the holding penalties are great, Orakpo would rather have the sacks. That'll be his goal as the Redskins host the Houston Texans this weekend, when he'll face a team from his home state for the second straight week. Orakpo was born in Houston and was originally a Houston Oilers fan, then later rooted for the Texans.
His high school, however, was nicknamed the Redskins.
"My high school coach told me, 'Once you're a Redskin, you're always a Redskin,'" he said.