Brian Orakpo has not been a disappointment for the Washington Redskins. A first-round pick in 2009, Orakpo has been one of the best and most reliable players on the Redskins' defense for three years. A 3-4 outside linebacker in college, he transitioned to a 4-3 defensive end as a rookie and right back to 3-4 linebacker in his second year. He's one of a handful of players still on the team from the time before Mike Shanahan became its coach, and he's a strong, positive presence in the locker room and on the field.
But Orakpo, who turns 26 years old next week and is heading into his fourth NFL season, is at a point where he must get better. No matter who you are, it's hard to be a great player if you never get any better than you were as a rookie. Orakpo had nine sacks last year, and he and the Redskins would like to see that number soar much higher. Orakpo advancing into the upper echelon of NFL pass-rushers is one of the things that must happen if the Redskins' defense wants to go from good to great.
To that end, as Rich Campbell reports, Orakpo is working on adding new pass-rush moves to his repertoire this year. And he's spending much of his time in training camp trying them out:
"I'm trying to change it up this year," Orakpo said after practice. "I've been working on a lot of different things. I know I got it in my arsenal, but I can't be afraid to use different things. That's one thing I wanted to try. Even if I do get blocked, I'm still trying to learn different things, and that's something I'm trying to incorporate throughout the training camp."
Now, this could be akin to the pitcher who goes to spring training promising to use his change-up more this year, uses it all spring and then stops using it once the games count and he's afraid it'll get hit. But Redskins fans should hope that's not the case. Physically and mentally, Orakpo appears to have what it takes to become a great pass-rusher. He's already a very good one, and he seems to know not only that he needs to get better but also what he must do to get better. This is encouraging for the Redskins, who also believe improved depth on the defensive line and the continued development of 2011 first-round pick Ryan Kerrigan on the other side will help Orakpo's stats improve. And it's worth keeping an eye on as camp continues.