With Rocky McIntosh and London Fletcher-Baker firmly entrenched at the weakside and middle linebacker positions, Washington has two athletic and productive backers who can run the field and deliver a couple of crushing blows on demand.
Going into the offseason, Washington knew if they could find a third productive backer to line up beside the duo, it would essentially make the unit one of the strengths on the team, and so our story begins.
When the Washington Redskins stumbled upon Brian Orakpo still sitting in the Green Room at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City waiting to be drafted, they jumped at the chance to select the premier pass rusher they had long been lacking in a New York minute with the 13th pick. Once they got the 6'3", 263-pound Orakpo back to D.C., they started tinkering with the idea of moving the college defensive end off the ground and in the air.
The idea wasn’t too foreign. A few scouts were predicting that Orakpo could make the transition to a pass rushing outside linebacker in a traditional 3-4 scheme. How successful Orakpo could be in a 4-3 alignment might be a different story, however. Playing in space might not necessarily be the former Lombari Award winner’s strong suit, but Orakpo possesses the elite athleticism to pull off such a switch.
Which is why the Redskins were playing their top selection at the SAM linebacker position in OTAs, giving him a chance to get adjusted to his new home before the season kicks off. Orakpo is expected to remain in the role and move to his natural strongside defensive end position on third downs, where he can focus on attacking the passer as opposed to dropping back in coverage.
Should the move work, Orakpo will give Washington blue chip athleticism at two of their weaker areas on defense. Should the move backfire, expect the team to limit Orakpo to mainly rushing the quarterback as a pass rush specialist.
No real camp battle here; the Redskins traditionally get their first-rounders on the field so the job is Orakpo’s to have. The only way he’s not the starter opening day would be due to injury.