Things keep getting interesting in our nation’s capital with the state of the Washington Redskins. Their quiet off-season is suddenly heating up and I’m not too confident it is in a good way. First the trade for Donovan McNabb, for valuable draft picks, made it seem like the Redskins were in a win now mode (even though they hadn’t signed any big name free agents). But now I don’t know where they are, since the latest news is the Redskins are shopping Albert Haynesworth.
If you are in a win now mode, like everyone presumed with the Donovan McNabb addition (despite coming off a 4-12 season), then why are you trading your best defensive player for pennies on the (millions of) dollar(s)? I know Redskins fans and (Greg Blatche) liked hating on Haynesworth. They said he was overpaid and didn’t play well last year, but that’s simply not true. He just wasn’t utilized properly in Blatche’s read and react system (yet even still his 4 sacks were his third highest career total). It wouldn’t have mattered what defensive tackle we had, he wasn’t going to get double-digit sack numbers if he’s not allowed to go upfield.
And to see what impact he had all you have to do is look at the 22 sacks between Andre Carter and Brian Orakpo last season. It definitely wasn’t Blatche’s defense that turned them into sack machines. It was Haynesworth’s presence in the middle that allowed them to face more one-on-one blocking assignments. And the fact of the matter is Haynesworth has even said that he wasn’t in the best shape last season, so his impact last year individually and to the team was maybe only 75%-80% of his natural ability.
I understand that Haynesworth isn’t a Shannahan signing, so he might not have as firm a place on this team. And the fact that the Redskins are switching to the 3-4 has made things more difficult since Haynesworth doesn’t want to play the nose-tackle position. But you know what, I don’t blame him, that’s not getting the most out of his value. Haynesworth isn’t just some 340 pound tackle used to occupy blockers, he has some quickness and agility for that size and is a major backfield penetrator. Also, it’s not unprecedented to kick him out to DE in the 3-4, the Ravens Haloti Ngata will play the majority of his 3-4 snaps over the tackle. If Ngata can do it, why not Haynesworth, who has always been a better pass rusher than the Ravens star.
If Maake Kemoeatu can stay healthy and handle the nose tackle position this could be a devastating defensive alignment for opposing offenses. You would have two 3-4 linemen who should each be blocked by two offensive linemen (I don’t think tight ends and fullbacks are going to always get the job done) that is going to create plenty of freedom for your linebackers. Also by being over the tackle, Haynesworth might even put up better numbers since he will have space to work with. Guards and centers rely on working in the ‘phone booth’ to handle defensive tackles Haynesworth’s size, an offensive tackle won’t have that luxury.
As for the whole debate about Haynesworth not participating in the voluntary workouts, I think that is a little overblown. Sure I understand you want him there, and the coaches want him there. But they are voluntary for a reason and Haynesworth is apparently working out with the trainer he worked with during his back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons. Pardon me if I’m not going to crucify him for wanting to work out with the guy that he got the best results with. I don’t hear the Tennessee Titans complaining that for the 2nd year in a row Chris Johnson is working out with his own trainer, if it worked last year for the tune of 2,000 yards then why change a good thing. Same thing with Albert, if this trainer put him in his best shape then go for it. There will be plenty of time for Haynesworth to learn the new system.
Another thing that people need to give Haynesworth a break for is this misconception that he takes plays off. I realize he’s under scuntiny given his contract, but all these defensive tackles are signed to mega deals. And guess what, all of them (Nagata, Wilfork, Hampton, Rodgers, the Williams twins) ‘take plays off. It’s a fact of the game, and in fact makes them better players to play more snaps at 90-100% than snaps at 50%.
Hopefully cooler heads will prevail and the Redskins won’t trade their best player in my opinion. Especially since they were equating his trade value to Donovan McNabb or a 2nd round pick. I’ll admit some quarterbacks are more valuable than Haynesworth, but their names are Brees and Manning or they are in their 20’s and not signed for one season. If the Redskins are a contender next year it will be because of Haynesworth as much as any other player.