Is Orakpo primed for a big season?

Is Orakpo primed for a big season?
July 22, 2013, 11:15 am
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Eyes on Richmond: How many sacks for Orakpo and Kerrigan?

Tandler - Tarik

By Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler

Twenty questions No. 3—Will Brian Orakpo come up big in his contract year?

The 2013 Redskins are loaded with storylines. Between now and the start of training camp, Insiders Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir will be examining the top 20 questions the Redskins face as they get ready for the season.

A year ago, Brian Orakpo looked ready to put it all together in his third season in the Redskins’ 3-4 defense. Unfortunately, his campaign lasted less than two games because of a torn right pectoral muscle – the same injury he suffered in the final game of the 2011 season. Ask Orakpo and he'll say he’s ready to go out and “rip it up” this season. He also has plenty of incentive; his contract is up after this year. Everyone expects him to be good in 2013. But can he be great?

Rich Tandler: I do believe that Orakpo is “300-percent” healthy, as he said last week. And he does have a chance to make that move from good to great, but he needs a lot to go right for him. Staying at 300 percent healthy or better certainly would help. So would the Redskins scoring as often as they did last year (27.2/game, 4th in the NFL in points). And Jim Haslett could help out his guy by being at his “mad scientist” best and figuring out schemes that help Orakpo get to the QB. But mostly it’s up to Orakpo himself. He needs to get less frustrated about being held (in 2011 he drew more holding flags than any pass rusher) and do more to beat the blocker anyway. And it would help his overall profile if he could force some fumbles and score a touchdown or two. The good to great move is possible for Orakpo but far from a given.

Tarik El-Bashir: If you’re going to suffer a season-ending injury, it’s always best for it to happen early, as it did with Orakpo. When the 26-year-old steps onto the field for practice Thursday, 316 days will have passed since he felt his pec pop against the Rams. If that’s not enough time to get “300-percent” recovered, it probably won’t ever happen. My bet, though, is that he’s going to be fine. I’m also among those who believe this will be a big year for Rak. Ryan Kerrigan is a better player, which will force opposing offenses to choose which linebacker to concentrate on stopping. The secondary should be better, buying Orakpo more time to get to the quarterback. And, as Rich pointed out, Orakpo has the opportunity to earn lucrative, long term contract. Such a huge incentive should not be overlooked. If Orakpo stays healthy and plays 16 regular season games, I wouldn't be surprised if he notches 13-15 sacks. Based on last year's numbers, that would put him in the top five – and in line for the contract he hopes to earn.

Upcoming on 20 questions

  • Question 2 Tuesday: Who starts at free safety?
  • Question 1 Wednesday: Will RG3 be “all in for Week 1”?