- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 22, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS

Hours after they released former Pro Bowl linebacker Marcus Washington, the Redskins‘ search for his replacement began when they told Texas standout Brian Orakpo they envision him as the strongside linebacker in their 4-3 defense.

The top pass rusher in the draft, Orakpo is out to prove he’s versatile enough to play defensive end and linebacker regardless of the scheme.

“The Redskins said I could be a ‘Sam’ backer in their 4-3 and, when it’s time to rush the passer, get down to it,” he said Saturday at the NFL scouting combine.

“Get down to it” equals get to the passer, which Orakpo did 11.5 times last year for the Longhorns. The Redskins have an obvious need in the pass-rushing department. They posted an NFC-worst 24 sacks in 2008.

Because Orakpo played well in both the 4-3 and 3-4 schemes during his college career and because his numbers improved each year despite a variety of roles, he sees himself as a player who can pay immediate dividends.

“Right end, left end, ‘Sam,’ ‘Will’ [weakside linebacker], ‘Mike’ [middle linebacker] - 3-4 or 4-3 - it’s doesn’t matter,” he said. “I’m not a guy who they have to project and or say has the potential to play the 4-3 or 3-4 - I’ve played in both. I’ve done it.”

Orakpo checked in at 6-foot-3 and 263 pounds; he is slated to do defensive lineman and linebacker workouts Monday. He credited his improved production last year (42 tackles, 19 for loss) to playing for new coordinator Will Muschamp’s 3-4 alignment.

“He was a guy that stressed fundamentals,” Orakpo said. “We had walkthroughs like crazy to make sure everybody was on the same page so there wouldn’t be any busts on game day.”

Crabtree needs surgery

Texas Tech receiver and projected top-five pick Michael Crabtree will need surgery for a stress fracture on his left foot. The injury was discovered during medical testing Friday.

According to NFL.com, Crabtree’s recovery time is 10 weeks, so he can’t do any predraft workouts. Chicago coach Lovie Smith and Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli said they don’t expect Crabtree’s draft stock to plummet dramatically.

“I don’t know if you lose out, because a lot of people here won’t work out,” Pioli said. “You have a bunch of tape on him. From our standpoint, we evaluate how they play - not just how they run [at the combine].”

Divergent results for Smiths

The top two left tackles enjoyed different Saturdays.

Baylor’s Jason Smith continued to solidify himself as the No. 1 offensive lineman by bench pressing 225 pounds 33 times and running a respectable 5.22 seconds in the 40-yard dash. The bench press total far exceeded those of Eugene Monroe (23) and Michael Oher (21).

Alabama’s Andre Smith, meanwhile, had an eventful week. On Thursday, he said he might do the drills. On Friday, he announced he would work out only at the Crimson Tide’s Pro Day on March 11. On Saturday, unlike most players who don’t work out but watch the players at their position, Smith was gone. That’s two red flags in two days for him.

Ravens’ big decisions

Baltimore Ravens executive vice president-general manager Ozzie Newsome has several tough decisions to make before free agency starts next week. He has already placed the franchise tag on defensive end-linebacker Terrell Suggs, but center Jason Brown and linebackers Ray Lewis and Bart Scott are scheduled to hit the market.

“The way we looked at it from an organizational standpoint is that Suggs is 25, has been very durable and can rush the passer. So when you add those elements together, we felt he would be the one guy we did not want to get to the market,” Newsome said.

The only realistic way the Ravens can sign all three defensive players is for Suggs to sign a long-term contract that’s salary cap friendly, allowing room for Lewis and Scott. The Ravens are expected to make it work but likely will lose Brown and safety Jim Leonhard.

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