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Orakpo's Versatility Brings a Responsibility, Too


The 1st Round Pick
Jul 16, 2009
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Draft day approaches. The various web sites, mavens and maniacs dedicated to the study of personnel puzzles analyze each team’s needs and issue their judgments.

Running back for this one. Receiver for that one. Pass rusher for the party of the third part.

So it went for the Washington Redskins. A lack of pressure usually shows up quickly in an array of statistics, not the least being the old won-loss record. The Redskins ranked fourth in total defense but had a meager 24 sacks, few takeaways and an 8-8 record in 2008. Those 24 were the worst in the NFC and 8.4 below the league average. Team leader Andre Carter had four, and no team had a player with fewer than that as its top sack artist.

So, a pass rusher. The problem is that rookies aren’t often the immediate answer.

No rookie had more than five sacks last year in the NFL. No rookie had more than six in 2007. If the pass rush is a problem and the draft will provide the answer, we are talking a longer-term solution than right here and right now.

Gaines Adams, a defensive end chosen fourth overall by Tampa Bay in 2007 and not much liked by the Washington Redskins scouting staff, led all rookies with half a dozen sacks. He had 6.5 last year. This is the sort of incremental progress pass rushers make. If they make any at all.

Way I see it, how successful Orakpo is this season is directly related to how creatively/effectively Coach Blache uses him. Being a standout physical stud in the NFL is only as effective on its own as the brain it's attached to (Jeff George, pick up the white courtesy phone), so all the reports of the rookie blowing people up in practice means little to me. So will anything he does in preseason, when he won't be targeted by opposing offenses and have to worry too much about the risks of blowing assignments at key points in games.

Rest assured that the Giants on opening day will test the young LB/DE early and often with misdirection and disguised looks. Will he keep contain against the run, or take bad shallow angles and let the RB get outside? Will he follow the RB baiting him out into the flat and let the TE get loose underneath on a key 3rd down late in a close game? Will he let the OT bait him into wide rushes and watch the RB slip inside him over and over?

If Blache can find enough ways to move the kid around situationally and lose him in traffic, limit his reads and protect him from his inexperience and desire to make an impact early (LaVar Arrington, pick up the red courtesy phone), and Orakpo can take advantage of the attention being paid to guys like Haynesworth, Carter and Landry, he could have a good year and accumulate some good early stats.

If they hope he's going to be both a big-time situational pass rusher and a reliable, assignment-savvy every-down starter, however, I'm afraid they're going to be setting him (and us on the outside looking in) for a rollercoaster of a season.
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