Haynesworth fine doing what he does best
The months-long tussle over Albert Haynesworth's role in the Washington Redskins' 3-4 defensive scheme appears to have reached a resolution for now, one that seems to please all parties. The Redskins will continue using their base 3-4 defense, which includes three defensive linemen and four linebackers, but will only use Haynesworth in packages that give the talented defensive lineman the freedom he craved to chase the quarterback.
"Trying to get him to do the 3-4 stuff was trying to get a square peg into a round hole. We were trying to force the issue," defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. "Obviously, it hasn't worked out the way we would like."
Coming off his biggest game of the season, Haynesworth said he's happy with his new role in the defense and doesn't mind coming off the bench to contribute. While the Redskins will continue using a 3-4 base - called the "Okie" - Haynesworth will be used primarily as a pass rusher, playing mostly in nickel packages.
"We just kept working at the Okie, and I wasn't coming along to be able to be the starter. . . ." Haynesworth said. "I was like, hey, let me just focus on the stuff that I know, and then you'll see a lot more production out of me."
Haynesworth said he and the coaches began to discuss changing his role just a couple of weeks into the regular season. Both sides seemed to agree that Haynesworth wasn't contributing as much as anyone would like in the 3-4 base. Haynesworth has played in four of the team's seven games this season but has yet to earn his way into the starting lineup.
Playing primarily in nickel in last Sunday's 17-14 win at Chicago, Haynesworth had his first sack of the season and was able to overwhelm the Bears' linemen. "We knew what he was capable of, but it was just about him and the coaches getting on the same page," cornerback Carlos Rogers said. "When they did, you see what he did for us."
Detroit Coach Jim Schwartz studied tape of Haynesworth last week and saw something familiar. Schwartz was Haynesworth's defensive coordinator for seven seasons in Tennessee. "It's him playing in a 4-3," Schwartz said.
Instead of worrying about gap responsibilities and reading offensive linemen, which can take a second or two after the snap, Haynesworth now can revert to a more familiar role: He'll charge forward, rather than moving laterally.
"That's where he could just get off the ball and just go," linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. "They're just simplifying it and let him get off the ball and get after it."
Haynesworth still could have a major impact in games. Haslett estimated that the Redskins have spent 35 percent of their plays this season in a 3-4 alignment. Haynesworth can contribute in most other formations, whether they are 4-3, nickel or dime packages.
Coach Mike Shanahan said the Redskins will continue to keep six defensive linemen active each week, expecting all of them, including Haynesworth, to be ready to play 50 percent of the time - about 25-35 snaps a game.
"He was never a full-time player at Tennessee," Schwartz said. "We rolled our guys through and expected when they were in there to go hard, and then when they needed a break we got them out."