Monday, June 8, 2009

Orakpo Switch to OLB Rivals New Coke for Epic Stupidity

DC Landing Strip correspondent Marion's Crackpipe checks in with some opinions on Brian Orakpo and the Great Position Switch of 2009.

Last week a genius idea struck me. Let's draft the best defensive lineman in college, pay him tons of money, then make him play linebacker. No, better idea. Let's make him learn two positions!

Just when I thought I had the Mensa Genius Award locked up, Cerrato & Co. beat me to it. Not the first time, either: I once had this idea of paying an overrated white guy record-breaking amounts of cash to miss tackles for my favorite team. Cerrato took that one and
ran with it, too.

'Skins first round pick Brian Orakpo, the 2008 Nagurski Award recipient given to the best defensive player in college football, is a studly pass-rushing defensive end known to make opposing qb’s o-crap-o their o-pants-o. After the 'Skins nabbed him with the 13th pick McNabb, Romo and Eli were spotted at nearby Costcos stocking up on the Astroglide. An obvious need of the 'Skins and for once, a seemingly wise draft pick by Vinny boy.

Then the truth surfaced: instead of grooming this potential sack monster to take over the LDE spot as Philip Daniels with
ers into obscurity, 'Skins brass has decided to cover their own ass and have Orakpo also fill the other glaring defensive need, strong-side "Sam" linebacker, simultaneously. Hey, it worked for Frankie "Zip" Joseph on the 1925 Dayton Triangles, why can't it work for Orakpo?

To be fair,
Orakpo did work out before the draft as both a linebacker and d-end, and played a few pass-rushing downs at LB in college. The idea of switching college DEs to LBs at the pro level is not new, though it's riddled with tales of failure, the most recent being Vernon Gholston's struggles learning OLB in the 3-4 Jets' defense. And true, Orakpo is a bit undersized as an NFL d-end (as is Dwight Freeney, btw) and lighter DEs tend to struggle against the rush - and the 'Skins D is based on stopping the rush.

But that's because the 'Skins run a 4-3 defense in which the linebackers must drop into coverage, audible at the line, know varied gap and blocker assignments, and generally do the sort of things a college DE like Orakpo would never have learned. T
he 'Skins, though, think so highly of Orakpo that they're making him learn all this while figuring out DE at the NFL level. Most 'Skins fans would be happy with just modest gains in the latter.

In classic Cerrato fashion, a domino effect of personnel and cap mismanagement has led to a seemingly desperate move. Last year, it was throwing away this year's second rounder (which could have been used to draft an outside LB, for example) for Jason Taylor because the 'Skins had no roster depth after Daniels went down (we also switched JT's position; how'd that work out?). This year, it's forcing a rookie to play two positions because there was neither cap room nor the draft picks to obtain a reliable starter at both.

Look, there's a fine line between getting the most out of talented personnel and setting a kid up for failure, and Redskins management has completely obliterated that line once again.
It's why guys like Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders and even the great Joe Gibbs are considered failures upon departure, even if they did well during their tenures. It's why insane athletes like Sean Taylor aren't forced to learn second positions, even if they have the build for it. It's tough enough for Orakpo to shoulder the burden of becoming the 'Skins' entire pass rush, but then to expect him to learn a completely new skill set? In a few short months?

I understand that Orakpo will still be unleashed as a pass rusher on 3rd and long, and might very well become a Pro Bowl level OLB, who knows. And maybe he's the kind of kid who thrives under weighty expectations. I just feel like I've seen this movie before, and in a Redskins Nation where patience has gone the way of the do-do bird, I'm anxious to see how it plays out. Hint: I can already hear the "Orak-poo" calls coming.

[Orakpo image via]

-Marion's Crackpipe


  1. How is it in a blog piece concerning a defensive player you don't mention Greg Blache ONCE. He's the person responsible for moving Rak to LB. And maybe, just maybe it's for good reason and not for the stupid ones you've listed.

    This is basically a Cerrato hit piece. Which I don't even mind to be honest, because I don't like the guy.

    But how is Rak being asked to shoulder the Skins entire Pass Rush when we brought in Haynesworth to collapse the pocket? If anything a large amount of the weight is on his shoulders and he's not even expected to be the one sacking the QB. And I'd expect Carter to maybe receive some of that pressure as well.

    Left end in Blache's D is not meant to get sacks. But we sure do use LBer's for to try and get that pressure. We tried using Marcus Washington but he wore out and Kherry Campbell etc were simply not the athletes MW was and Rak is.

    Imagine this play, Haynesworth Collapses the pocket, Carter preasures blind side hard coming around the left tackle as Rak comes in knocking a silly TE out of his way on route to a wimpering QB.

    Sound stupid? Research Rosevelt Colvin + Greg Blache + Chicago Bears.

  2. Anonymous,

    You fail to realize that everything bad in the world is Vinny Cerrato's fault.

  3. @Rico Fantastic

    I didn't doubt that fact until I saw Matt Millen talking about football in NBC.

  4. @ Anonymous:

    A fair critique, but the point is Cerrato has set the kid up for failure by forcing the coaches to expand his role. His strength is obviously on the D-line, and pass rushing. Why on earth would you take his strengths out of his hands? Remember when we tried to make Trotter a read-react MLB after years of success clogging the middle as a run-stuffer?

    He could become the next Roosevelt Colvin, but why even take the risk? As you say, Haynesworth can collapse the pocket, so isn't the best use of Orakpo to have him come off the edge?

  5. A couple points:

    -I'd rather have Orakpo become the next ________ (insert elite DE) than Roosevelt Colvin. Considering he was the 3rd DE off the board and the 13th overall pick, he certainly has that potential, and to me, that's more value than he can possibly give us as a linebacker.

    -I'm a little nervous to see how he operates in coverage on 1st and 2nd downs. His inexperience makes me especially nervous on defensive audibles. A DE usually has one mindset: get to the quarterback. It becomes a reflex.

    What's he gonna do when the playclock is winding down, Eli Manning audibles, London Fletcher barks out defensive orders, the tight end is in motion, etc.

    It only takes one moment to fuck up a defensive assignment, either pre-snap or during the play. Any hesitation and he is gonna get burned. And then we won't even get to see him rush the passer, because we won't even make it to third down. This is my greatest fear.

  6. More bullet points!
    1) I agree that Rak being the whole pass rush was overstated

    2) Blache is not solely responsible for the switch, not even close. This was a group decision that was made before the draft; Cerrato and co. scout, possibly get input from Blatche and Kirk Olivadotti (our LB coach). Blatche probably had some input, but you know the way things go in DC, the buck stops with Vinny and Danny.

    3)Big issue is if Blache, Cerrato, etc. all wanted Orakpo to play LB, then why not just draft Cushing? If you want a LB, draft a LB. The best player for the team with that pick was Rak playing LB?? Really? If Cushing turns out to be a great player, this pick will look REALLY bad.

    4)It is hard to gauge Rak's role. The Grilliams style of contain and don't give up big plays has been carried on by Blache. The only reason we blitz so much is because we can't get any pressure with our front-4. Grilliams even said in the past that he didn't like to blitz so much. With Fat Albert, linebackers probably won't have to blitz as much.

    5) That said, our defensive style is changing. Fat Albert does not fit the contain and play it safe style, and the talk and feeling from the Skins this offseason is that the D will play it a bit more risky this year. The Skins also can't be so dumb as to stop Rak from doing what he does best.

    6)This move still smells like Orak-poo to me


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