New beginning for rookie end? Orakpo plays linebacker in first 'Skins camp

ASHBURN, Va. -- As if a new town, new teammates and a new lifestyle weren't hard enough, Washington Redskins first-round draft pick Brian Orakpo might have one more obstacle in his transition to the NFL: a new position.

Orakpo, selected by the Redskins last week as a highly touted defensive end, spent his first minicamp Friday and Saturday drilling with Washington's linebacker corps.

And while Orakpo -- who slipped to the 13th overall selection after some projected him in the top five -- still expects to be a lineman first, how well he adapts to linebacker might affect how much he plays as a rookie.

Curb your enthusiasm

Don't expect too much from rookie pass rushers such as Brian Orakpo,

Pat Kirwan writes. A realistic goal for the new Redskin is about four sacks next season.

"It's all just up in the air, just seeing what can I do, and how can I stay on the field at all times," said Orakpo, a 6-foot-4, 260-pound speed end who played on both sides of the defensive line at Texas. "But they brought me here to rush the passer, and I'm not getting away from that at all. Don't even think that."

A self-described athletic "freak" with a 550-pound bench press and a 4.7-second 40-yard dash, Orakpo certainly offers flexibility to a group that finished last season with 24 team sacks, just 28th-best in the NFL. And with the addition of All-Pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who signed a seven-year, $100-million contract early in free agency, Orakpo senses the Redskins' scheme could suit him well.

"Now I can really get on the edge and not worry about the quarterback stepping in the pocket," said Orakpo, who led Texas with 11.5 sacks during his senior season. "Because you've got big Albert clogging up the middle, pushing the pocket, making the quarterback escape to where the ends are coming and leave us roaming free. It's really a lot easier for us."

Orakpo also could free up other ends such as Andre Carter, who had four sacks and 37 tackles last season, or veterans Phillip Daniels and Renaldo Wynn, who likely will play more on run downs.

That's the plan -- though it's hard to tell what will happen because they haven't played much with Orakpo.

"I saw him pass rush," said Haynesworth, who otherwise said he hadn't watched Orakpo much. "On one, he turned the corner real well and slapped a guy's hands. He's got that part down. With a rookie, you've got so many things thrown at you that it's really different, and you can't really focus on the game of football."

Added Carter: "We see a little bit of him on film. He's coming along. It's the transition of him going from being a defensive end to a linebacker. He also comes down and puts his hand in the dirt in nickel and dime packages. But he's all over the place."

Which, in the end, is what the Redskins want.

"I'm getting a sense of my role," Orakpo said. "I'm still getting more comfortable at the linebacker reads and stuff, but that just comes over time.

"In running downs, it's up in two-point stance, and when it's time to rush, well, it's, 'Get down and go.'"

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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