Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo didn’t realize the significance at first. When Chicago reached the NFC Championship Game, joining Green Bay, it meant one thing for Orakpo: a trip to the Pro Bowl.
As a first alternate, Orakpo earned a spot because two of the linebackers in the game will be playing Sunday – the Bears' Lance Briggs and the Packers' Clay Matthews. And that means one of them will be playing in the Super Bowl, thereby being unavailable to play in the Pro Bowl in Hawaii the week before the ultimate game.
And that opened a spot for Orakpo, who now has two Pro Bowl berths in his first two seasons. Orakpo said he didn’t realize he had earned a spot until he was told by his agent and the Redskins public relations staff. The NFL,which hasn't offiically told Orakpo of his honor, will announce any changes to the roster after this weekend's championship games.
He'll join corner DeAngelo Hall as the Redskins' lone representatives.
“I’ll take it,” Orakpo said. “I would love to have made it the first time around, but I’m two for two right now in the NFL and it can only get better….I can’t ask for a better start to my career than to be selected twice and get all these sacks and accolades. I would love to be winning, but that will come in the future.”
Orakpo, like the rest of the defense, had to adjust to a new scheme. As a rookie, he mostly rushed from a four-point stance, with occasional blitzes from a stand-up position. But this season he rushed from a two-point stance as an outside linebacker. It put him closer to the line of scrimmage, enabling him to use his explosiveness.
He finished with 8 ½ sacks after recording 11 as a rookie. But Orakpo also drew numerous holding penalties, including one on the final play vs. Dallas in the season opener that negated a game-winning touchdown pass.
Orakpo said he had to work on staying low while rushing from a two-point position. He also said he wants to add more counter moves in the future,
“It was different,” Orakpo said of rushing from the 3-4. “It’s something I want to improve on. The four-point stance was my thing through my career [including college]. But this was the first year to gauge it and get a feel of it and I was satisfied from that standpoint. I’m very hard on myself and my expectations were high and I felt I left a lot out there this season.”
He also said he wants to add more counter moves.
“So I can get that extra effort and instead of getting holding calls so much,” he said, “I can have that extra move to get those hands off me and be able to rip through it or whatever I need to do to make plays instead of relying on holding calls.”
But he can do all this knowing he’s now a two-time Pro Bowler.
“I didn’t have as many sacks, but I’m happy with the results,” he said. “I can get better and more consistent, but I’m a young player. A lot of guys can’t say when they started that they’ve had the type of career I’m having.”