Brian Orakpo made his name by sacking quarterbacks, but this week it appears the fifth-year linebacker wants to focus on stopping the run.
In a season opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Orakpo and the Redskins defense gave up more than 260 yards on the ground. Early in the game, the Eagles run game looked unstoppable, with running back LeSean McCoy and quarterback Michael Vick making plays seemingly at will.
This week, the Redskins do not plan to give up similar rushing totals.
"We have to be able to stop the running game," Orakpo said at Redskins Park on Thursday.
Green Bay's offense ranks as one of the more lethal in the NFL, largely thanks to quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Stopping the run will allow the Redskins to pressure Rodgers, Orakpo explained.
"If we do a good job stopping the run, we’ll be able to rush the passer a lot more effectively," he said.
Last season the Packers averaged more than 250 yards per game in the air, but their run game lagged behind. Green Bay's offense was basically one-dimensional, and the team addressed that this offseason by drafting running back Eddie Lacy out of Alabama.
"He's a tough guy, a steady back," Skins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said of Lacy. "Obviously he's an upgrade from what they've had in the past. Looks like a good football player from what I've seen."
A run game will make the Green Bay offense that much tougher to defend.
"We always emphasize trying to stop the run," Haslett said. "Obviously we didn't do a very good job last week, but it's one of those situations that you don't want to give every team the situation where they can do both. You have to take something away."
Lacy made his NFL debut last week in Green Bay's 34-28 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The rookie running back did not put up incredible numbers, 14 rushes for 41 yards and a touchdown to go with one catch for 31 yards, but Lacy gave the Packers a legitimate run threat.
"He showed a lot of talent," Orakpo said of the rookie runner.
Green Bay will also present a more conventional NFL offense for the Redskins defense. Facing the up-tempo, zone-read Eagles scheme last week seemed a bit shocking for the Washington defense, at least early in the game.
"It's two totally different offenses. You’ve got to kind of switch gears," Orakpo said. He called both Rodgers and Eagles QB Michael Vick "great" players, but they present different challenges.
Vick is unlike most other quarterbacks with his speed and escapability. Rodgers can move in and out of the pocket, but is not the running threat of Vick.
Orakpo called the Packers offense "nowhere near" the Eagles and added, "we'll be up for the challenge."
Knowing his team will face a traditional pocket passer, Orakpo smiled and said he looked forward to the chance of rushing the quarterback. But he again added the importance of stopping the run to attack the pass.
"Aaron’s not looking to run," he said. "We've got to be able to stop the run to get those opportunities to have pressure on the QB."