ASHBURN, Va. – Brian Orakpo is a clear leader on the Redskins. He’s also one of the starters in the spotlight and under pressure to ensure the upcoming season is a winning one.
“We expect a lot,” Orakpo says. “I don’t want to put it out there, but this is going to be a good season for us because we really worked very hard to get to this point.”
There’s little doubt among sports columnists the linebacker will continue to lead the Redskins defense in 2012. As the team’s first-round pick in 2009, No. 98’s smooth voice and strong character have always made for a good sound bite, and that character extends to the locker room where “Rak,” as he’s known, serves as a natural role model for incoming players. He’s even keeping rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III on his toes.
Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan looked to Orakpo during his rookie season last year and quickly earned the veteran’s respect. Going into his second year, Kerrigan will help Orakpo find more stability on the line and give the five-year veteran the opportunity to increase his stats.
Orakpo has “kinda been knockin’ on that door of having elite status. He’s made a couple of Pro Bowls,” says Rich Tandler of CSN Sports. “Certainly [he’s] been a solid player, at times a dominant player. But he hasn’t been a dominant player for 14, 15, 16 games a year.”
Orakpo says he wants to work on his response after the block and diversify the moves he can pull from his arsenal. While his total of nine sacks last year is impressive, it’s down from his rookie season.
He’s said he wants to be in the NFL’s top five in sacks.
“The [coaches] expect great things from our defense and our outside backs in general,” Orakpo says.
Pregame ritual: Push-ups – “Gets your blood flowing,” he says.
Favorite snack: Little Debbie Honey Buns
Offseason vacation: A Disney World cruise with his son
Even in college at the University of Texas, Orakpo was known for his sheer power.
While the lefty says he’s comfortable on the left side, he also can play on the right. Both he and Kerrigan switch between the right and left sides of the line to “get different looks.” Orakpo says he’s not sure when that started, but he’ll continue to switch with Kerrigan throughout the season.
Part of Orakpo’s job in training camp is not only to improve his skills but to challenge the Redskins’ rookie quarterback, getting Robert Griffin III prepared for the rush of a much faster game.
“The problem is when you have Brian Orakpo running right after you and you can’t get your shoulders around, so we worked on it all through drills,” Griffin says about throwing to the left side.
Orakpo is a fan favorite, and he’s also picking up promotions. Washington fans will remember his GEICO commercials last season.
Then there is this Nike ad featuring D.C. native, rapper and Redskins fan Wale.