University of Texas
Draft Position: Round 1, 13th Overall 2009
2014 will be a big year for Brian Orakpo, it will largely determine whether he will be paid like an elite pass rusher, or an above average pass rusher. Orakpo will play 2014 under the franchise tag unless the Redskins sign him to a long term deal (which doesn't look promising). In other words, Orakpo will play under a one year "Prove you're an elite pass rusher and can stay healthy" type of deal. After 2014, Orakpo will once again hit the open market where the Redskins could face a tough decision on whether to re-sign him or not, depending on his play.
Assuming Orakpo can stay healthy, you would have to think that he would have a good year. Orakpo believes he deserves a long term deal, and the fact that the Redskins didn't have the confidence to sign him to one has to leave a chip on his shoulder. In addition to playing under a one year contract, Orakpo will have the luxury of playing with improved talent around him. The addition of Jason Hatcher cannot be understated. Hatcher will give the Redskins defensive line a huge upgrade and yet another pass rushing force to add to Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. The Redskins also spent their first selection on pass rushing specialist Trent Murphy, although it is largely believed that Murphy could be the long-term successor to Orakpo for now, let's just think about the possibilities of Orakpo, Kerrigan, Murphy, and Hatcher on the field at the same time.
Although Jim Haslett is not a new coach in Washington, without Mike Shanahan breathing down his throat Haslett will have the freedom to coach more how he wants. Haslett has made it clear he will be turning up the pressure and letting his pass rushing specialist run wild in 2014. This will also benefit Orakpo, often in 2013 he was dropped back into coverage, something that is not his strength. Orakpo is at his best when he can focus on using his freakish combination of size and speed to rush the quarterback. Another tweak to Jim Haslett's system will be the variety of positions players will line up at. In 2013 Orakpo lined up exclusively at outside linebacker. However, if the first week of OTA's is any indication players will play all over the field, which could include Orakpo and Kerrigan playing with their hands in the dirt (something they both did in college). Orakpo and Kerrigan also spent a lot of time switching sides at Wednesday's OTA practice session that was open to the media. This added wrinkle to the defensive system is just one more think opposing offenses have to worry about, and could provide mismatches in favor of the Redskins pass rushers.
A new coach that should benefit Orakpo immensely is the arrival of outside linebackers coach Brian Baker. However, Baker's title would probably be better suited as "pass rushing specialist coach". Baker will help improve Orakpo's technique as well as teach him new tricks that will help Orakpo in 2014. It has been evident in OTA's thus far that Baker has focused on improving players technique and footwork, often working with players one-on-one, including Orakpo.
With the new talent around him, the tweaks to the defensive system working in his favor, and the fact that he is playing under a contract year, all signs point to Orakpo having a good year. My prediction is a very solid year, but not a monster year. I don't expect Orakpo to put up J.J. Watt sack numbers, but I do expect him to be solid and maybe even return to the pro-bowl (that will largely depend on the team's success). My predicted final stat line for Orakpo is: 12 sacks, 64 tackles, 3 forced fumbles.
Roster Bubble: Makes team, starter.
Orakpo will make the 53-man roster, be a starter, and play the majority of snaps as long as he's healthy. Orakpo may be considered an underachiever because he has never posted more than 11 sacks in a season, however, Orakpo is a physical freak and creates a problem for opposing offenses'. It's as simple as that.
In case you forgot how much of a physical freak Orakpo is... Check out his clip from Orakpo's draft workout's.