Brian Orakpo will benefit from a year off
By Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir
The 2013 Redskins are loaded with storylines. Between now and the start of training camp, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir will be examining the top 20 questions the Redskins face as they get ready for the season.
Can the defensive line generate a pass rush?
The Redskins had the NFL’s 30th-ranked pass defense in 2012 and it became very popular to bash the defensive backs. And while the secondary didn’t play well, that was only part of the story. The front seven had problems generating a consistent pass rush. Part of that problem will be mitigated, as Brian Orakpo will be back. But the line was able to generate just 3.5 sacks last year and that will have to change if the overall pass defense is going to improve.
Tandler: Part of the problem up front was that Adam Carriker, who had 5.5 sacks in 2011, was lost for the season in the second game. His replacement, Jarvis Jenkins, had no sacks. Carriker’s return looks iffy so Jenkins, who says he is now fully recovered from a torn ACL that cost him his 2011 rookie season, needs to generate more pressure. Before the injury Jenkins had a quick first step and everyone was saying that he could use that to get pass pressure and easily rack up half a dozen sacks. If he regains that step he can be the guy the line needs to compliment Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan and help out that secondary, which has added talent but could take some time to gel.
El-Bashir: Although generating a pass rush isn’t the primary focus of a lineman in the 3-4, there are opportunities to get sacks. Jenkins, as Rich pointed out, will need to be better. But so will his counterpart, Stephen Bowen. A season after recording six sacks, he recorded a pair of half sacks in 2012. Bowen told me last month, “I’m not making any excuses, but having Rak back, when he’s there, the offensive line has to pick their poison. Who do you block?” Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett also acknowledged that he intends to incorporate some wrinkles to help the D-line get more pressure in “obvious passing situations.” I like the unit’s chances of improving in this area. On paper, the secondary is going to be better, forcing quarterbacks to hold onto the ball longer on some plays. Bowen is healthy again. Orakpo is healthy again. Jenkins has removed the brace from his surgically repaired knee. Add that all together, and I think we’re going to see a D-line that puts up numbers closer to its 2011 totals.