When Brian Orakpo arrived at Redskins Park for the start of offseason workouts last week, he looked forward to reconnecting with his old teammates and welcoming the new players and coaches.
But Orakpo was especially excited to get his hands on Jim Haslett's retooled defensive playbook.
All offseason, there’s been speculation about how Haslett was going to turn loose his outside linebackers in an effort to produce a more effective and consistent pass rush.
Well, let’s just say Orakpo likes what he’s seen and heard so far.
“We had a sit down with our new [outside] linebackers coach, Brian Baker,” Orakpo said. “He sat down with me and Ryan and emphasized what he needs us to do this year—and that’s to create havoc.”
Orakpo said the checklist of responsibilities will be simplified next season so that he and the other outside linebackers can focus on what the Redskins really need them to do: apply pressure to the opposing quarterback. Last season, Orakpo amassed 10 sacks but the Redskins ranked 22nd in that category with 36.
“Don’t worry about just being robots out there, don’t worry about containment and all that other stuff in certain situations that we were coached to do,” he added. “That’s what fans need to understand: we were coached to do a lot of things [other than rush the passer.] And we’re not selfish guys.”
But that, Orakpo said, is about to change.
“This time we’re taking the handcuffs off,” Orakpo said. “We’re going to go out there and make guys make plays. Make guys [on the Redskins' defense] play to their advantage instead of playing what’s called. I’m very excited about the new regime, very excited about the new scheme, very excited about having [linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti] back especially, and having Brian Baker to help us with our pass rushing abilities.”
Orakpo also noted that he’s excited to enter the offseason not concerned about his twice torn pectoral muscle. Although he was physically healed a year ago, he conceded that he didn’t get over the mental aspect of the injury until the middle of last season.
“It’s huge,” he said. “You see it so many times when I guy gets off injury. He says he’s 100-percent. He’s 110-percent. He says he’s 150-percent. But he just doesn’t have that same feeling of the way he played before. It’s just not really quite there. It happened to myself.”
Indeed, after amassing three sacks in the first eight games of the 2013 campaign, the 27-year-old racked up seven in the second half of the season.
“It takes a while,” Orakpo added. “As the season progressed, I was able to really get my feeling back and was able to go out there and play my game. You noticed a big difference in the second half of the season in my play. I was going out there and playing the game I know I’m capable of playing. …I was very excited that I forgot all about that injury and was able to excel.”