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Brian Orakpo Is Very Confident

Posted by Matt Terl on August 30, 2010 – 10:13 am

Former Redskins linebacker (and current talk radio personality) LaVar Arrington has started blogging for the Washington Post. In general, I like these former-player-POV things — see also: Ross Tucker, Matt Bowen, others that I’m not remembering right now — and so far Arrington’s work has been no exception. But the post he put up Saturday — “Redskins-Jets game: Some questions about the 3-4 and how Brian Orakpo is being used” — made me curious.

Arrington’s essential contention is that playing linebacker Brian Orakpo on both sides of the defense in different situations is a bad idea, for a couple of reasons: the stance is different, the responsibilities are different, and also:

By moving Orakpo from side to side, Haslett is giving the offense an opportunity to identify the defense’s tendencies — which gives the offense an added advantage in identifying blitzes or pass coverages. But also keep in mind that Orakpo is still learning to be a linebacker in the NFL. So I’m wondering why Haslett is not simplifying the defense for him as much as possible.

Arrington sounds convincing, and he carries the weight of experience; even though, as he notes in the post, he was not a 3-4 linebacker, he WAS an NFL linebacker. So I figured I’d ask Orakpo himself his thoughts on the subject during yesterday’s open locker room. His opening response — “Actually, I’m good, man,” — provides the summary, but he did go into a bit more detail.
(Also, let me note for clarity’s sake that Orakpo hadn’t had a chance to read Arrington’s piece, so he’s responding to my summary of it. Any resulting miscommunications can probably be attributed to that.)

“I’m versatile, man,” Orakpo said. “They feel like that’s what I can do: I can handle a lot on my plate and still go out there and perform at a high level. I’m very confident in myself, and that’s what we’re doin’. I’m movin’ around all over the place, as y’all can see, and it’s effective. We’re off [after] third down, which is when we need to be.”

Orakpo likes the results he’s seeing so far, not just for his own stats, but for the ripple effect it’s having on the defense. “I feel very good,” he said. “Obviously, teams are gonna start scheming me for what I like to do, and they’re gonna start slide protecting and trying to their best to maintain that. So it gives other guys the freedom to make big plays — you see (Adam) Carriker and other guys making sacks and pressures to get off the field. That’s the most important thing.”

In fact, Orakpo amplified something he had said much, much earlier in the offseason: the transition into this 3-4 is much easier on him than last year’s move from defensive end to linebacker in a 4-3. “In the 4-3, I’m off the the ball,” Orakpo said. “I never did that before in my life. So your keys are a lot different than a 3-4 linebacker, where I’m on the outside as a stand-up D-end. So it is a lot different, because the gaps change in a 4-3; 3-4 pretty much stays the same for outside backers.”

Like I said, though, his opening response summarized the whole thing. “Actually, I’m good, man.”

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