Haynesworth Saga Day 5030 Part II

Steve O Speak

In Part I we looked at how the media is portraying Albert Haynesworth not attending voluntary practice, in Part II we look deeper into the actual issue. The Haynesworth issue/situation stems in part from last season, when the Redskins made him the highest paid defensive player in the game, and signed him away from the Tennessee Titans.

Despite signing the most disruptive defensive tackle in the league, who is known as a penetrator and pass rusher, the Redskins under defensive coordinator Greg Blache used him in a read-and-react role. What made it even worse is that Greg Blache refused to acknowledge Haynesworth’s presence in helping DE’s Andre Carter and Brian Orakpo register double-digit sacks. While a new regime made it seem likely that Haynesworth’s issues with the team would be fixed, those hopes were dashed with the reports that new defensive coordinator Jim Haslett would be implementing a 3-4 hybrid system, that would likely play Haynesworth at nose tackle. This development has created a media furor that has swirled for the last few months. Now the Redskins are in danger of alienating their best defensive player, and the worst part about it they are completely wrong in this situation.

First off, let me say I want Haynesworth to be in camp and happy. But as of now, he hasn’t broken his contract or done anything he that isn’t mandatory, so I’m not going to demonize him. I also can’t be too critical because I feel he was misplayed last year, and mistreated by Redskins fans (and the media). So he isn’t a media darling like Chris Cooley, he also isn’t an openly disruptive player like say Terrell Owens. And despite what fans and the media might think, Haynesworth had a very good year last year for the Skins. According to Pro Football Focus (an advanced football statistical site that goes beyond counting numbers), Haynesworth finished 4th among defensive tackles in overall rankings. And that is despite missing 4 games due to injury, all three players ahead of him were healthy for the entire season (though Kelly Gregg plays only on certain downs). While I don’t think Pro Football Focus is the be-all-end-all of statistical analysis, I think they are a fairly good reference point. It is also worth noting that the biggest knock on Haynesworth’s play was the penalties assessed against him, part of which came from the Falcons and Giants games where he stepped in to defend his teammate, DeAngelo Hall (there were other penalties for sure, but those should be exceptions). Haynesworth also led all Redskins defenders (and players) in overall value. While his sacks might not have been high he still scored high as a pass rusher (not to mention taking on blockers for Carter/Orakpo) and was among the team leaders in QB hits and pressures. What’s even more impressive is Haynesworth did that despite being in a system that didn’t allow for him to be a disruptive force in the backfield.

The other thing that Redskins fans and media knock Haynesworth for is taking plays off and being injured. Now I understand that Haynesworth missing 4 games is worriesome, but guess what? It happens with defensive tackles, especially the big 325 lbs.+ guys. Guys like Nagata or Wilfork miss time routinely, sure you’d like to keep it to one or two games instead of three or four. But the point is it’s a fact of the game that you can’t really complain about. Even with missing four games, Haynesworth played the fourth most snaps among Redskins defensive linemen and he was only about 50 snaps (or just over a game away) from being 2nd on that list. So with the exception of defensive end Andre Carter, Haynesworth played more snaps per game than any other Redskins d-lineman. Albert Haynesworth played in over 60% of his defense’s snaps according to Pro Football Focus, and that includes missing 25% of the season. In fact if you look at the list of nose tackles/defensive tackles that played 75% or more, it is only 15 names long (and most of them aren’t very good). Haynesworth played more snaps per game than Vince Wilfork, Casey Hampton, Aubrayo Franklin, Haloti Ngata, Pat Williams, and a whole host of other elite tackles (he even played more snaps than some despite them playing more games). Where is the public outcry in all of these cities about their players ‘taking plays’ off or ‘being winded’. It is a sheer fact of the game, but is made into full blown story because the television camera’s showed Haynesworth anytime he was on the sidelines.

Now I think we can all agree that the media/fan beliefs that Haynesworth wasn’t effective and took an inordinate number of plays off, was not only false, but in fact science fiction. But the question remains what do you do with Haynesworth now in regards to the new 3-4 alignment? A number of tackles that I compared him to are in fact nose tackles on 3-4 teams (Ngata the noteable exception), and they were compared to Haynesworth because they are of similar body type. But that being said, I don’t believe that Haynesworth is a good fit as a NT. Yes he could handle the position and probably do a great job, but that doesn’t play to his strengths. Haynesworth, unlike all the other guys mentioned is a dominate pass rusher and penetrator. While those other tackles are great because they hold the point of attack and stuff the run, Haynesworth gets into the backfield and stops the runner for a loss. And on passing downs he might not always get to the quarterback, but when he is set free he is one of the best at causing pressure and forcing the quarterback to throw the ball away. And while it is possible for a nose tackle to cause that kind of disruption (Shaun Rogers), Haynesworth would be better suited as a 3-4 defensive end who wouldn’t constantly face a double team. The Ravens have used Ngata in this way, despite the fact that he isn’t nearly the pass rusher Haynesworth is. Basically what you are doing is having two nose tackles (who should both be double teamed) on the line. This opens up the other defensive players, and when the don’t double team the end they have the freedom to make plays. This is exactly how Haynesworth should be used.

If he is playing heads up against a LT, I think Haynesworth will have a distinct advantage. Left tackles are used to being on an island with pass rushers, but they are also used to being bigger and stronger than them. Usually the LT has a size advantage of 40 pounds or more, and are at worse of equal size. Haynesworth on the other hand will dwarf plenty of tackles in the league, and is still surprisingly quick for his size. I don’t see this as a match-up many LT’s (or quarterbacks for that matter) will relish. Not to mention the fact that if the LT is working on Haynesworth, that will allow Orakpo a much clearer path to the quarterback.

Well, the dilemma the Redskins are facing with Haynesworth is if you move him to end, who plays the nose tackle position? Which is a crucial position in a 3-4 defense. The Ravens are able to play Ngata at end, because they have Kelly Gregg (and just drafted Terrence Cody). The Redskins on the other hand lack that starting caliber personnel for NT. They did sign Ma’ake Kemoeatu who two years ago did a very good job playing over the center in a 4-3 alignment, but there are two issues with him. He missed last season with an Achilles injury (one that he is still not fully recovered from), and it has been a couple of years since he was in a true 3-4 system. Outside of that, the only other tackle that would even be a possibility would be Golston but he has never played the position, and doesn’t have the normal bulk associated with it (though he gets good leverage). Neither is a great option and I think the Redskins could use a little insurance at the position so they aren’t forced to play Haynesworth there. One option outside the organization is John Henderson.

Henderson was released by the Jags a couple weeks ago after the NFL draft. He has almost zero experience as a nose tackle, but then again that’s the same amount of experience that Haynesworth and Golston have. Henderson makes sense to me for the Redskins, because he isn’t really old, and hasn’t shown a major decline in his numbers yet. While he might have been a little pricey for the Jags, I’m sure the Redskins can sign him for a much cheaper deal. Although he has never played the NT position, he is a better fit that Big Al. Henderson used to be more of a pass rushing DT but has changed his game into more of a power run stuffing guy. He is consistently used to the double-team and unlike a Golston or a non-hundred percent Kemoeatu he demands one. He has the size for the position 6’7″ 335, and is versatile enough to play some as a 3-4 end, and can easily fit in as a 4-3 tackle as well. And with knowing that Haynesworth (and the rest of the d-linemen) will need breathers there is quite a need for a versatile player like Henderson. Sure it isn’t a given that he will succeed as a NT, but since he can help you out in other packages, even if he struggles it will be a good signing. Not to mention that there is even a greater advantage to Henderson than his potential as a nose tackle, and that is his familiarity with Haynesworth. Henderson and Haynesworth played together in college at the University of Tennessee and were both first round picks in the 2002 NFL Draft. By adding Henderson, the Redskins could extend an olive branch to Haynesworth and begin to have a dominate defensive line.

The Haynesworth situation has been a mess from the beginning, but he is needed on the Redskins, as without him their defense won’t be the force it can be. It’s time that Washington starts fixing the situation and assuring Haynesworth he will be allowed to play to his strengths (as he should be) and get after the quarterback. John Henderson could be the answer to all their problems, now they just need to go out and sign him.

Related Articles

Chicago Bears News: Six Undrafted Rookies Signed, Getsy On Team’s Receiver Room, Early 2022 Predictions

Bears Bring In Six Undrafted Rookies For Tryouts, Waive Six Six Players   The Chicago Bears are bringing…

Read More about Chicago Bears News: Six Undrafted Rookies Signed, Getsy On Team’s Receiver Room, Early 2022 Predictions

How NIL Rights Impact Canadian Players

It wasn’t all that long ago the NCAA announced that there would be changes coming to the NIL…

Read More about How NIL Rights Impact Canadian Players