Is Jim Haslett Limiting Brian Orakpo and Redskins' Potential on Defense?

Shae CroninCorrespondent INovember 29, 2013

Nov 17, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Washington Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo (98) prior to playing the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles defeated the Redskins 24-16. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

As one of the lowest-graded defenses in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), the Washington Redskins deserve their fair share of criticism, and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett does too.

The front seven has been a disappointment; the pass rush is lacking; and the secondary, outside of DeAngelo Hall, has strung together an inconsistent and ineffective attempt to cover anyone and everyone they've faced this season.

Through his nearly four seasons in Washington, Haslett's defenses have been sub-par performers, never ranking better than 21st in the league or allowing less than 23 points per game.

On Friday morning, ESPN's John Keim posted his conversation with Redskins outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, which revealed some interesting notes about Washington's scheme and the role of the outside rush linebacker position.

As Keim notes, Orakpo has often talked about pass rushing based off instinct. When asked if he can have effective countermoves when relying on instincts, Orakpo said, "It's hard to say. Everyone wants the countermoves, but the way we're predicated on rushing we don't have a lot of options to do it because we have a lot of other obligations."

"The time we do have, you have to understand we have rules within the defense," Orakpo said. "We're basically coached and taught to contain rush the majority of the time. But at times you want to go inside, you want to do stuff but you can't because of the defense."

December 9, 2012; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett talks on the sidelines against the Baltimore Ravens at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Keim then asked Orakpo if he believed he was an elite pass rusher and has what it takes to be one in the NFL.

"Absolutely I feel like I am. Anybody will tell you that," Orakpo said. "We don't rush a lot, me and Ryan [Kerrigan], like a lot of other 3-4 'backers, like people would think we do. We don't."

"I would love to work a tackle," Orakpo continued. "It's a chess match. I'd love to work a tackle play after play. You don't have time to sit there and learn what you did on the previous play on a guy. You're very limited what you can do at times depending on the defense."

To clarify, Keim asked Orakpo if he was referring to coverage assignments when the linebacker spoke about doing more than just rushing the passer.

"Just from the 3-4 outside 'backer we play, it's very different from what Terrell Suggs does in Baltimore in his 3-4 and what DeMarcus [Ware] would do in Dallas where they're going forward at all times," Orakpo said. "We do way more than what a lot of guys are doing in the league."

Redskins Defense Under Haslett
YearLeague Rank in Yards AllowedLeague Rank in Points Allowed
201031st21st (23.6 ppg)
201113th21st (22.9 ppg)
201228th22nd (24.2 ppg)
201328th (Currently)31st (30.7 ppg) (Currently)
Pro Football Reference

When your team is sitting at 3-8 with five weeks to go in a bitterly disappointing season, sometimes you can read a little too much into things, mistakenly working to make mountains out of mole hills. But in this case, Orakpo's comments justify what most of us have been screaming at the television for the past few years.

Although Orakpo is often talked about as a quality pass-rusher, his statistics since joining the Redskins as a first-round pick in 2009 haven't come close to proving him elite. His highest sack total to date was 11 as a rookie and he has generally streaky sack production over the course of his career—a majority of which has been played under the direction of Haslett.

For the sake of Orakpo's comparison between his duties and those of Baltimore Ravens pass rusher Terrell Suggs, Pro Football Focus documents Orakpo (and Kerrigan) rushing the opposing quarterback on close to 79 percent of the passing snaps they're on the field for, whereas Suggs is attacking the opposing quarterback on 91 percent of the passing snaps he plays. 

Additionally, Orakpo and Kerrigan have spent nearly double the amount of snaps in pass coverage as Suggs. In fact, only eight other 3-4 outside linebackers in the NFL have dropped into coverage more than Orakpo and Kerrigan have this season. 

It's long been thought that perhaps Haslett isn't the right fit as coordinator for this 3-4 scheme.

Orakpo's comments only help to support that argument.