RICHMOND—All of the talk about the return of Brian Orakpo after he missed 14 games last season has centered on how much his presence will help Ryan Kerrigan. If Orakpo can play as well as he has in the past, or even better, that should help draw attention away from Kerrigan and allow him to realize his potential going into this third NFL season.
There also has been mention of how an improved pass rush could help the secondary, which is either retooling or revamping, work through its issues.
Barry Cofield recognizes the benefits that Orakpo can provide Kerrigan and the secondary but he brings up another area where Rak can help.
“It’s great to have ‘Rak back, you know, and I think ‘Rak being back makes Ryan better, makes [Stephen] Bowen better, makes the secondary better,” said the Redskins’ nose tackle in a sideline interview during Thursday’s game in Tennessee. “We all work together.”
Cofield brings up the line and the numbers tell the story there. In 2011 with Orakpo playing 16 games the defensive line combined for 18 sacks. Last year, without Orakpo and end Adam Carriker (5.5 sacks in 2011) the line’s sack total dropped to 3.5.
Carriker is on the PUP list and he could miss a substantial chunk of the season, if not all of it. And there is danger is assigning cause and effect to Orakpo’s presence and the line’s sack total. But, as Cofield said, the defense works as a unit and the ripple effects of the absence of a player of caliber of Orakpo flow through the defense.
It’s not like Orakpo will be the panacea for all that ailed the Redskins’ 28th-ranked defense last year. But if he does come back and play “like a hungry wild animal” as Cofield says he will, all levels of the defense will benefit.