By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 28, 2010; D1
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Only one preseason game remains before the stakes become much higher for the Redskins under Coach Mike Shanahan, and it appears Albert Haynesworth will be a big part of Shanahan's plans after all.
The leader of Washington's football operation signaled as much Friday night during a 16-11 victory over the New York Jets in which the talented but controversial defensive lineman played a larger role than he had previously in the preseason.
Haynesworth played early and often in front of a crowd of 50,508 at New Meadowlands Stadium, working at right defensive end in the 3-4 alignment - the position he is expected to play during the regular season - for the first time, as the Redskins rallied late behind the play of third-string quarterback Richard Bartel and veteran running back Larry Johnson.
The Redskins took the lead with 2 minutes 13 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Bartel to Johnson, who had a strong performance (42 yards rushing and a 4.7-yard average) off the bench and may have taken an insurmountable lead over Willie Parker in their competition to serve as top running back Clinton Portis's primary backup. The Redskins improved to 2-1 and the Jets dropped to 1-2.
Despite Haynesworth's ongoing tiff with Shanahan, it was clear Friday that the Redskins are committed to helping the two-time all-pro prepare to aid them this season. The Redskins are in the process of making an ambitious change from their former defense to a new scheme, and they believe Haynesworth's presence could be among the keys to a successful transition.
No one at Redskins Park cares more about winning than Shanahan, who finally seems ready to let Haynesworth do his thing.
"That's what they wanted me to do this week, so we practiced a lot at end to get a feel for it and everything," Haynesworth said. "I've still got a lot of work to do. I've got to stop trying to go up field and react to my guy that I'm playing; the offensive tackle or the guard. . . . I'm just really, right now, just trying to get down the end in the 3-4 defense down so . . . I can be dominant in it and play my best."
Haynesworth worked with the first team at nose tackle in the nickel package and at right end in base packages during practice this week. He entered the game early in the first half and completed the third quarter.
"He did play a lot of plays," Shanahan said. "Our goal was to play him 30 plays."
On the fourth play of the Jets' first possession, Haynesworth joined his teammates and played extensively in the opening two quarters. He alternated between nose and end. Long after most Redskins veterans had removed their shoulder pads, Haynesworth continued to battle Jets offensive linemen.
After missing all but one day of the team's offseason program and all the minicamps, Haynesworth was far behind his teammates in learning Washington's new 3-4 scheme. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and defensive line coach Jacob Burney have worked overtime in an effort to get Haynesworth, among the league's most dominant defensive players when he is motivated, up to speed.
And for the first time this preseason, Haynesworth worked at end more than at the nose. The nine-year veteran is expected to start at right end in the regular-season opener Sept. 12 against the NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys at FedEx Field.
"I still had that 4-3 mind-set, trying to make plays and things like that," Haynesworth said. "I can definitely improve a whole lot, but I didn't play horrible. I did [fine] for playing end the first time in a 3-4."
After their poor overall performance - especially in pass protection - during a blowout loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the Redskins appeared to make strides against the Jets' formidable defense. The Ravens and Jets both utilize aggressive 3-4 schemes, and the Redskins protected their quarterbacks better than they did six days ago.
Washington's defense overall continued its strong showing in the preseason. Although the Redskins had problems against the run (the Jets had a 7.4-yard average in the first half and a 5.0-yard average on 161 yards total), they continued to force turnovers, which pleases Haslett.
Top cornerback DeAngelo Hall had his second interception in three games. Hall is the first Redskins player with two interceptions in the preseason since safety Sean Taylor had three before the 2004 season. Reserve cornerback Phillip Buchanon also did a nice job of stripping the ball from a Jets receiver one one play, leading to a fumble recovery for Washington.
"This defense is made for getting turnovers and making plays," Hall said. "We're just executing the defense and doing what we're supposed to do."
With quarterback Donovan McNabb sidelined because of an injured left ankle, backup Rex Grossman led the first-team offense during its two quarters of work. After he struggled last week in relief of McNabb during the blowout loss to the Ravens, Grossman appeared steadier while completing 8 of 16 passes for 111 yards.
"I thought Rex did a good job," Shanahan said. "He made some throws in there. . . . Overall, I was pleased."
Haynesworth seemed to be as well. His chilly relationship with Shanahan has been among the main story lines since Shanahan officially took control of the team in January, which was why reporters erupted in laughter after the game when Haynesworth joked about them becoming fast friends.
"We talked a little bit more tonight. I think I saved his life from getting hit in the head with the ball," Haynesworth said. "I'm going over to dinner at his house, probably tonight. Gonna sit and have a cigar and talk."