The Washington Redskins opened training camp for the first time since 2009 with Brian Orakpo. The perimeter pass rusher signed this offseason with the Tennessee Titans while the Redskins look to the combination of Ryan Kerrigan, Trent Murphy and Preston Smith at outside linebacker (though the Junior Galette possibilty remains).
The Titans open their training camp Friday and do so with rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota. Breaking Burgundy recently caught up with Paul Kuharsky, ESPN's Titans beat writer, for an update on Orakpo and a preview on the rookie quarterback some analysts rank ahead of Robert Griffin III.
As a reminder, Orakpo recorded 40 sacks during his six seasons in Washington. He also missed 24 games with injuries over the last three seasons. Orakpo did not participate in any of Tennessee's offseason workouts after suffering a season-ending pectoral injury last year, but he has been cleared for training camp.
Breaking Burgundy: What were your prior thoughts on Orakpo and then what was your take on the signing for the Titans?
Paul Kuharsky: I remember looking at him a year ago and thinking he could be an ideal guy for the Titans if he didn't get franchised in Washington. That maybe he might be as good a guy that might reach (free agency) given the Titans deficiencies rushing the passer.
Early in the season, he suffered the (pectoral) injury I believe against the Titans when the Titans were up there. I'm weary of the injury. I know it's kind of freak, bad luck stuff. I know he changed his training regimen. Certainly once Jason Worilds went off the market because he retired, then (Orakpo) is probably the best they could have done. I like the signing with the caveat that he stays healthy.
BB: What's your sense of Orakpo's potential impact on the Titans defense?
PK: He could be a good addition. He could be a good 3-4 pass rusher for them. I think he and Derrick Morgan, with Morgan now being the second guy instead of the lead guy, can be a good enough duo. They have no depth, no proven depth behind those two. If Orakpo were to get hurt again, they'd be completely up the creek in terms of what they could get from that outside spot.
If they get production from him and Morgan, the defense could make a significant leap. If they don't, then I think we'll be talking about why they didn't do something more at that spot.
BB::Let's talk about Marcus Mariota. The Titans selected the former Oregon standout second overall in the 2015 NFL Draft. More recently, one NFL analyst ranked him - and 30 other projected starting QBs - ahead of Redskins QB Robert Griffin III. Did that surprise you?
PK: I was on vacation when that list came out, but it wouldn't have made a ripple for me so much. Ranking an unknown commodity against a commodity that seems to have worn out is not a big deal to me at all. I probably would put Mariota ahead of RGIII because at least there is some potential upside with Mariota. I think we know RGIII has some issues, particularly working with Gruden. I don't see any reason to think the arrow is pointing up with RGIII right now. At best, it's pointing level. He's got to show me more before I believe that he can get back anywhere close to his rookie form.
Mariota is all up arrow at this point. Completely unproven at this point, absolutely. We have no idea how he's going to work in the offense or if his skills are going to translate to the pro game. You come into the league as the No. 2 pick and the Heisman Trophy winner and there is a lot of optimism. I was very skeptical of them drafting him. I don't think he fits their mold. ...They need to put him on the move at least some and they hated Jake Locker on the move. What's the difference between one or the other is a fair question.
That said indications are that (Coach Ken) Whisenhunt is in fact blending in elements of the Oregon offense that will help Mariota maximize his chances of early success. Also, Mariota is better than I thought. It's only mini-camp and that's all we have to go on. I thought there were going to be accuracy issues at this level, but he's been very accurate. ...I thought his arm wasn't going to be so good. Mariota has an NFL caliber arm from what I've seen for sure. I keep telling everyone that everything has to be kept in context, but if you're a Titans fan, right now I'd tell you to be excited. It's the first thing you have to be excited about in a long time.