Redskins' Defense Goes on the Offensive in Scrimmage

By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 9, 2009

After the Washington Redskins' intrasquad scrimmage, the burgundy-clad camera-phone paparazzi gathered off in one corner of a practice field, hurling rapid-fire questions and accolades at the 22-year-old tower of muscle.

"Romo'd better watch out!" one fan yelled.

"No way McNabb will be able to get by you," said another.

"How many sacks you think you'll get this year?"

"I don't know," Brian Orakpo said with a chuckle. "Not a big numbers guy."

After a successful scrimmage for Orakpo and the defense, fans at Redskins Park flocked to the rookie defensive end-linebacker to snap photos and wave their Sharpies. Orakpo signed footballs, jerseys, scraps of paper, babies and even one woman's checkbook.

Fans' excitement about the Redskins' first-round draft pick was only buoyed by his performance at Saturday's scrimmage. Conversely, however, their questions about the team's offense -- specifically, its suspect offensive line -- burn hot as ever just four days before the team's preseason opener at Baltimore.

Coach Jim Zorn seemed pleased with his team's effort after the 62-play scrimmage, but the fans in attendance hardly got a full look at the 2009 Redskins. On offense, only six of the 11 starters saw action Saturday, and by the end of the scrimmage, the Redskins had nearly run out of right tackles. Stephon Heyer, the front-runner to start Week 1, and Mike Williams skipped the scrimmage because of nagging pains, and Jeremy Bridges and fourth-stringer Scott Burley both suffered minor injuries Saturday.

Quarterback Jason Campbell says no matter how minor, injuries hurt because they keep the offense from practicing as a group. Also missing from action Saturday on offense was running back Clinton Portis, guard Randy Thomas, tight end Chris Cooley and wide receiver Santana Moss. In fact, with second-year wideouts Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly both nursing sore hamstrings on the sideline, Antwaan Randle El was the only one of the team's top four receivers to play.

"A lot of things we do are based on timing and also communication," Campbell said. "So as quickly as we can get guys back healthy and into the huddle, the better we'll be because everyone will be on the same page. You have to practice together in order to reach that certain rhythm."

Campbell found his own comfortable cadence early in Saturday's scrimmage. Starting at the 35-yard line, he marched the offense into the red zone. But as they did more than 50 percent of the time last year -- better than only three other teams -- they failed to find the end zone, the day's initial drive dying at the 2-yard line.

For the day, Campbell was 8 of 12 for 60 yards. He had a short touchdown pass to Trent Shelton during red-zone drills, and was intercepted by cornerback Justin Tryon.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company