The Washington Post

Jim Haslett: Brian Orakpo’s improvement in Redskins’ 3-4 like ‘night and day’

Last season marked linebacker Brian Orakpo’s second in the NFL, but in a way — with the Redskins switching to the 3-4 defense — the University of Texas product had to start all over again.

In the 4-3 defense, he played linebacker, but in passing situations, he rushed as a down lineman, bursting off the line out of a three-point stance. In the 3-4, Orakpo was required to learn how to rush the passer almost exclusively out of a two-point stance and account for more receivers and tight ends in pass coverage.

Orakpo last Friday had a strong outing against the Indianapolis Colts, recording three tackles in the first half. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound Orakpo appeared more explosive in the second preseason game than he did in the first, and he moved off of blocks with more ease than the year before.

Asked about his progress now that he is in his second season in the defense, Orakpo said, “I’m getting there. I’m getting there. Just trying to keep better as the preseason goes along. Feeling more comfortable out there. I’m able to go out there and not just play the calls, but read and react.”

Orakpo noted that this year is the first time in his professional career that he has been in the same system consecutive years. Because of that, he expects significant improvement this season.

However, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said the difference in Orakpo from last year to this year is already evident.

“He’s a lot more comfortable than last year, obviously,” Haslett said. “He’s not thinking as much. He’s just reacting. Obviously, he’s got great pass-rush skills, and he’s powerful, and he knows what he’s doing on the run.. . . He’s using his hands really well. That’s something he needs to keep working on, because he used to use his shoulders a lot some times last year, but this year he’s doing a lot better with hand placement.

“I think it’s night and day on where he was last year,” Haslett added.

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.


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