Is it already time to talk about Albert Haynesworth and the Redskins this offseason?
Haynesworth is back in the news as a result of his absence from the ‘Skins offseason program under Mike Shanahan — a coach who has made it clear that attendance is important to the success of the team.
I wrote about NFL offseason programs last week, and I’m not one to get overly excited about Haynesworth deciding to work out on his own with a personal trainer. I’m not a fan of it, but it happens with big-name players every year. It will cause some dissention in the locker room for the players who are working out daily, but that will pass once August rolls around and they’re in full pads — if he shows up in football shape this time.
But I think that’s only part of the story here. The ‘Skins are reportedly transitioning to a 3-4 scheme on defense, and Haynesworth will not get to line up as a DT in a 4-3 front — the same front where we saw him produce in Tennessee.
This is what happens when the head coach is fired. Once Jim Zorn left that building and Shanahan — plus new defensive coordinator Jim Haslett — walked in, the entire program got a face-lift.
Haynesworth has made it a point to tell the media that he doesn’t fit as a nose in the 3-4, saying, “You look at all the nose tackles in the NFL, they're all the same type guys. Like me, I'm 6-6, 330, 340 pounds, whatever. Most of those guys are short, stubbier, pretty much stump-type guys. I don't think I'm built to be a nose tackle, to be honest.”
I can understand a player not buying into change because most of these guys are used to playing a certain way. For Haynesworth, that means as a 3-technique in the 4-3 scheme. Yes, he could wind up playing DE in Haslett’s scheme, but that’s up to the coaching staff.
We all can agree that the nose position in the 3-4 is unglamorous. You become a “space eater,” taking on double-teams most of the game and having a hard time creating a push to the pocket. The nose often loses the ability to draw a one-on-one matchup, and as a result, the production isn’t always there in the box score.
But does that matter? Not really, if the defense is successful. Look at any 3-4 team that has success, and you’ll see that the nose is a vital part to how they game plan and attack offenses.
I do see Haynesworth as a player who could be dominant at the point of attack for the nose — but he’s going to have to buy into it. And that means watching tape, studying other successful 3-4 teams and learning how to play the position in a way that opens up opportunities for his teammates.
And it could be a tough sell to a big-money player and a major distraction if Haynesworth is unwilling to sacrifice for the defense. The first step to installing and winning with a new defensive scheme is getting pro football players to buy into what you’re teaching in the film room and on the field. Washington needs Haynesworth to compete in the NFC East, but it also needs him to buy into what it’s selling.
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