Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan delivered some worst-case-scenario injury news in his media briefing Monday. Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo (torn pectoral muscle) and defensive end Adam Carriker (torn quad) will have surgery, and neither will play again this season.
This is crushing news for the Redskins, for whom Orakpo and Carriker are critical pieces of a defensive front seven that was the strength of their team. My preseason prediction that the Redskins would go 8-8 was based not on my high opinion of their exciting rookie quarterback but rather on my belief that the defensive line and linebacking corps would play much better than a lot of people likely imagined they would and that a strong, deep front seven would make the Redskins a very difficult opponent.
The depth will help in this situation, as Rob Jackson has shown something when called upon to play outside linebacker and guys like Chris Baker, Jarvis Jenkins, Stephen Bowen and Barry Cofield were already part of a deep defensive line rotation. But Orakpo is a special pass-rushing talent on a team that relies on its outside linebackers to pressure passers. With him out, Ryan Kerrigan will draw more double-teams on the opposite side as teams dare Jackson to beat them. And unless Jackson drastically outperforms expectations, that strategy is likely to work. At the very least, it will do something to neutralize Kerrigan, who has thrived as Orakpo's opposite number since the Redskins drafted him last year.
The Redskins also have major issues in the secondary, as Danny Amendola's performance against them showed in Sunday's loss to the Rams in St. Louis, but they went into the season believing they could cover those somewhat with the play of the front seven. With safety Tanard Jackson suspended and safety Brandon Meriweather hurt, they were already thinner on the back end than they wanted to be. Now, they'll be thinner at linebacker and on the line as well, and will have to play without two of their cornerstone players.
As excited as everyone is about Robert Griffin III, I believe Monday's news should lead Redskins fans to temper their 2012 expectations at least a little bit.