Orakpo at Linebacker: Puzzling or Another Sign of Genius?

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Listening to Sirius NFL Radio this week, I was struck by some sound from an interview with Redskins CB DeAngelo Hall on Brian Orakpo and the coaches’ decision to work him out at linebacker. If you had simply read the quote, you would have seen that Hall thought Orakpo “looks great” executing drills during mini-camp. Okay, fine, something any player would say about a teammate, he looks great.

But hearing the quote greatly changed the context of Hall’s opinion on his new teammate, as the word, “great” was said with so much honest enthusiasm, so much energy, that a chill literally went up my spine trying to imagine what Hall and Greg Blache and others are seeing of this young prospect. Hall, no defensive slouch himself, practically sang the word “great,” revealing the idea that maybe, just maybe, something special is in the works down at Redskins Park. That the Redskins have finally drafted an athlete so uniquely gifted that they could build an entire team around him for years to come should be something to make any Redskin fan rejoice.

If so, then why am I so nervous about the idea of Orakpo lining up at Strong Side Linebacker instead of his traditional hand-in-the-dirt DE stance come next season?

Last month I posited the idea that the only way to really get excited about the Redskins offseason was to look at all of our moves from the perspective of Snyder and Cerrato in fact being a “genius” brain-trust. moves like:

– Ignoring the offensive line.
– Alienating the quarterback.
– Mortgaging a team’s financial future on the very large shoulders of a certain defensive tackle out of Tennessee.

Either these decisions are fumbling and bumbling on the part of the Skins front office, or the opening moves of a grand multi-season stratagem designed to return our beloved franchise to relevance and dominance.

Since Snyder and Cerrato haven’t proven or demonstrated genius in the past we have to either take a leap of faith or else view this offseason with severe scrutiny.

Along similar lines, if Orakpo had been drafted by New England and coaches there decided to work him out at SAM, Pats fans and others would be amazed by the coaching staff’s vision and insight in seeing Brian as this versatile player who could thrive anywhere the coaches place him, as long as the right schemes were in place. Bill Bellichick has earned the right to be unconventional.

Redskins Coach Jim Zorn, on the other hand, has very little to hang his hat on in terms of absolute evidence of coaching brilliance, which is what makes me nervous about this fiddling around with Orakpo’s positioning in the defense. Here’s a guy who won just about every commendation a player can earn throughout his high school and college playing career, all the while lining up at one position, defensive end. To suddenly force a player whose conventional and familiar position is as a certifiable pass-rusher, which also just so happens to be an extreme need for the Redskins defense, to shift gears and learn a new position at the professional level is a move that makes you go “hmm.”

The only positive way to view this experiment with Orkapo (outside of simply dismissing the whole thing as an OTA anomaly) is to acknowledge that this kid is just that good and athletic and will enhance the team at any position, which means Redskins coaches have vision and brilliance heretofore not demonstrated. Either that, or the coaches might be on the verge of mismanaging a gifted player.

Here’s to hoping the Redskins coaches have been taking genius pills.


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