Haynesworth's Debut Is Good, but Not 'Super'

Albert Haynesworth carries the expectations of a $100 million contract, but the Redskins were pleased with his debut.
Albert Haynesworth carries the expectations of a $100 million contract, but the Redskins were pleased with his debut. "He made a lot of good plays for us," London Fletcher said. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
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By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 18, 2009

Just a week into the season, the Redskins' biggest earner has become the team's quietest player.

Albert Haynesworth last spoke publicly about his play, briefly, in the moments following the Redskins' season-opening loss at the New York Giants. As the team turned its attention to Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams, Haynesworth has remained mum. On Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, the big defensive tackle shooed away reporters who approached him at his locker.

By way of explanation, he offered this week in a text message: "I will let my play speak for itself. . . . That's just the way I feel right now."

If that's the case, fans and coaches alike will be eager to hear from him Sunday. The subject of Internet catcalls and talk-radio bloviating for his first regular season game with the Redskins, deserved or not, Haynesworth will have a lot of eyes cast in his direction.

While fans weren't thrilled to see Haynesworth winded and at times removing himself from the game against the Giants, the tenor of analysis from Washington coaches couldn't be more different. Defensive coordinator Greg Blache said Haynesworth was "definitely a factor in how the game transpires."

"I thought he played well. Thought he did a good job," Blache said. "Made some plays in the run game, got some pressure at times in the passing game."

Washington gave Haynesworth a contract this offseason that could be worth as much as $115 million. To open the season, television cameras often focused on Haynesworth on the sidelines, at times taking a knee. He played in 45 of 64 plays, which is more than 70 percent of the snaps, and coaches said they entered the game knowing there would be regular rotation among the team's interior linemen. All seven defensive linemen played at least 10 snaps. Andre Carter was the only one who played more than Haynesworth.

"That's about what we anticipated in the first ballgame," Blache said. "Your first ballgame, the speed picks up much more than it's ever been in the preseason, the intensity level is up so much further, so you expect to play guys. It's the excitement of the first game, the speed of the first game, guys are antsy before they go."

Haynesworth's exact contribution thus far isn't easy to discern. Despite his production last season with Tennessee -- 51 tackles, 8 1/2 sacks -- defensive tackle isn't traditionally a position best judged by statistics. The NFL doesn't consider tackles to be an official statistic, but the league's official Web site credited Haynesworth with four tackles in Sunday's opener. However, the numbers maintained by the Redskins suggest he played a role in seven tackles.

Haynesworth did not face double- and triple-teams on every play, and Blache did not want to attribute other players' successes to Haynesworth's presence on the line.

"Albert's a good player, but let's not make him King Kong. He did his job. That's what we want him to do," Blache said. "Good player -- very, very good player -- but not Superman."

While some fans -- especially the sort who have cellphones and listen to drive-time sports talk radio -- have been quick to compare Haynesworth with the likes of Dana Stubblefield, the pricey free agent defensive tackle who flopped for the Redskins a decade ago, the Rams aren't quite writing him off entering Sunday's game "There aren't many tackles in the NFL that can disrupt the whole game," said Rams quarterback Marc Bulger, "and I think he's one of them. I think that's why Washington brought him in. He's such a wide body, has good experience now, and is good technique-wise, so we have our hands full with him."

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