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Albert Haynesworth goes the distance in Washington Redskins' preseason finale

By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 3, 2010; 2:41 AM

GLENDALE, ARIZ. - With the preseason finished, it remains to be seen whether Albert Haynesworth has regained his standing as a starter for the Washington Redskins.

If he hasn't, Haynesworth worked without purpose Thursday night as Washington closed the preseason with a 20-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

The Pro Bowl defensive lineman started for the first time in the preseason and played right defensive end most of the night in front of 61,509 people at University of Phoenix Stadium. On a night when the Redskins' other top performers relaxed and 31 players did not dress, Haynesworth played the entire game, participating in 49 of Washington's 55 defensive plays.

Having such a big workload in the final preseason game may not have sat well with Haynesworth. As a reporter approached Haynesworth in the locker room, he said, "I have no comment."

The coaching staff had a plan for Haynesworth in the game, Coach Mike Shanahan said.

"He's got to get in football shape," Shanahan said. "For the same reasons we've talked about. We got to get him some playing time so he can get back in football shape. I got to take a look at the film to tell you exactly how he played.

"But that's one of the reasons he's playing defensive end and nose tackle positions. We've got to get him as good as he can possibly be and get in football shape. There's only one way to do it and that's to practice and play."

Asked if Haynesworth was informed he would play the entire game, Shanahan said: "He knew. I think he knew. Coaches said he knew."

Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett backed up Shanahan.

"He just needed reps," Haslett said. "I didn't see any impact plays. I didn't see any sacks or things like that. But those guys [Arizona's offensive line], if they do their work, then they're playing pretty well. I know the one [play], he had a mental error.

"He went the wrong way on the quarterback scramble. Besides that, I'm not sure. Hopefully, he played well for his sake."

After starting at right end in the nickel package and playing through the third quarter during the previous game against the New York Jets, Haynesworth lined up at his preferred position from the outset against Arizona. The nine-year veteran was on the field for the first five plays of the Cardinals' game-opening, eight-play drive, which resulted in a 42-yard field goal by place kicker Jay Feely.

On Haynesworth's 34th snap, he slid inside and played nose tackle and continued to play the position into the fourth quarter. Washington will host its NFC East rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, on Sept. 12, and since training camp it has appeared the team's plan was to help Haynesworth prepare to start at right end in the regular season opener.

"That's why we wanted to get him as many plays as we could. We played him at nose and end," Haslett said. "Guys are going to have to play multiple positions. You know, I thought he held up.

"He came out early after about four plays. And then after that, he kind of stayed in and stuck with it. I'm going to take a look at film on the way back, but I think that's encouraging."

Owner Daniel Snyder has already paid Haynesworth $32 million - including a $21 million bonus on April 1 - and it would be stunning if Haynesworth did not have a significant role in such a big-stage opener against the Redskins' chief rival.

No Redskins offensive or defensive starters played against the Cardinals. No. 2 quarterback Rex Grossman also remained on the sideline. Grossman has taken the first-string snaps in practice since starter Donovan McNabb suffered an ankle injury during Week 2 of the preseason against the Baltimore Ravens, and he started in Week 3 against the Jets.

On Thursday, first-team players wore Redskins caps, jerseys and pants without pads while standing along the sideline. They offered tips and encouragement to reserves, many of whom were still competing for spots on the 53-man roster that must be set by Saturday.

In an interview during the game with Comcast SportsNet, General Manager Bruce Allen said there were still roster spots open. "Well, we've had about six guys appear that we're really pleased with, and tonight there are still six jobs open on this football team," Allen said. "And once again, we're still looking for some of the rotations of who's going to get more playing time. So it's an exciting game for those players."

Quarterback Richard Bartel, listed third on the depth chart, started ahead of fourth-team quarterback John Beck, which was a bit of surprise. Beck was expected to start after recently receiving a contract extension.

Bartel went 12 of 14 for 125 yards and a touchdown. He finished with a 127.7 passer rating. Beck finished 11 for 21 with 132 yards and an interception.

The Redskins did what they could to help Willie Parker, who appears to be the odd veteran out in the running back competition. Clinton Portis has done everything Shanahan has asked of him and, barring unforeseen developments, has retained his spot atop the depth chart beginning the season.

Power back Larry Johnson had a strong showing late in the victory over the Jets and could share the load as Portis's primary backup. And then there's Parker, who does not play special teams and has acknowledged he is deficient in pass protection.

With his extended workload against the Cardinals, Parker put more on video for other teams to consider if he is cut Saturday, as expected. Parker finished with seven carries for 35 yards.

There also were other intriguing individual situations to watch closely. Shanahan and special teams coordinator Danny Smith figure to continue their conversations about rookie wide receiver-punt returner Brandon Banks.

The speedy, diminutive Banks has stirred excitement on returns - but not always for the right reasons. He had a 77-yard punt return for a touchdown in the preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills but also has fumbled three times in the preseason, losing one. On Thursday, Banks muffed a return in the first quarter but recovered the ball. He also dropped a pass that should have been caught in the third quarter.

Rookie wide receiver-kick returner Terrence Austin, however, appeared to continue helping his cause. Austin played well against the Jets and teamed with Bartel on a 21-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter against Arizona Thursday. Austin finished with five receptions for 94 yards.

Wide receiver Devin Thomas, the Redskins' top pick in the 2008 draft, did not play on offense during the last game against the Jets. He ended 2009 as the starter at flanker but has been listed as the third-string split end, behind 38-year-old starter Joey Galloway, since the first depth chart of this season was released.

Thomas had four receptions for 34 yards and averaged 27.5 yards on kickoff returns. It would be surprising if Washington released Thomas, but it appears he faces an uphill battle to become a factor in the passing game even if he makes the cut.

reidj@washpost.com

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