Brian Orakpo sounded fairly upbeat last week when discussing the franchise tag the Redskins placed on him. Here’s one possible reason: his new head coach and returning defensive coordinator have apparently promised the veteran a more expansive role moving forward.
The linebacker was on ESPN 980’s “Inside the Locker Room” on Thursday afternoon, and host Doc Walker essentially prompted him on this point, asking whether he would have more freedom in 2014.
“Yeah, when I talked to [Jim] Haslett not too long ago and also Jay Gruden, that’s what they kept emphasizing to me over the phone, with the way I’ve been used throughout the years, kind of letting loose a little bit and being that premier rusher for the Redskins,” Orakpo said. “We’re going to play to our strengths more so this year than we did in the past, and that’s what I’m excited about, because I know what my capabilities are. I’ve always been very confident in the way I play, and the coaching staff realizes that, and we’re going to be able to take advantage of that this year. So there should be no excuses from anybody — my side or their side — this year, to go out there and just do our thing.”
Walker followed up, saying that when he’s seen Orakpo in practices, the former first-rounder shows a wider range of pass-rushing abilities than he does in games.
“That’s what Haslett and the rest of the coaching staff said I was going to be able to do this year, and not really be concerned with containment,” Orakpo said. “One thing that we emphasized [in the past] was containment; me and Ryan [Kerrigan] were sacrificing certain things so we made sure that we keep the pocket close. But this time around, they’re kind of letting us have more freedom and do our thing. And if we lose containment, so what? You know, a lot of guys around the league do it; why not us?
“A lot of guys don’t care [about containment]; a lot of guys out there are making more and more plays with having that notion that they’re not really concerned with containment,” Orakpo went on. “They just know they’ve got one sense and that’s to get to the quarterback. So that’s what they’re going to be able to do for myself and for Ryan myself. Like I said, you’ll see a better repertoire of stuff throughout the season, I can promise that.”
Scott Jackson also asked Orakpo about the many reports of Mike Shanahan interfering with what Haslett wanted to do on defense.
“I’m not gonna do the blame game for anything,” Orakpo said. “That’s not what I’m on here for. I really had no notion of what was going on [last season]. There was some reports of some problems with not being able to run the defense like we’ve really been trying to run it. And that kind of caused some conflicts. But like I said, this year we’re able to let Haslett run the show and we’ll see what happens.”