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Between the Lines: Haynesworth Can't Do Everything for Redskins

Sep 17, 2009 – 10:00 AM
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JJ Cooper

JJ Cooper %BloggerTitle%

Albert HaynesworthAs we have done since the FanHouse began, I'll be taking a look every week at some aspect of line play. You can read more features in the series here. Check back every Thursday for a new Between The Lines.

When the Redskins signed defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth to the largest free agent deal in NFL history, the contract came with a lot of expectations. One game into his Redskins' career, there are already columns asking, is that all there is?

Haynesworth had four tackles against the Giants. He had no quarterback hurries and no sacks as the Redskins lost 23-17.

The stats tell a little bit, but they don't really fully explain how Haynesworth played in his Redskins' debut. So how did Haynesworth look? To get a better idea, I went back and watched every snap the Redskins' defense played against the Giants. Haynesworth worked hard for his paycheck, but the team's struggles explain how it's more difficult for a dominant defensive tackle to dominate a game than a great quarterback.

For one thing, barring an injury, a quarterback (or a linebacker or a cornerback) plays every snap. Like any other defensive lineman, Haynesworth gets breaks. In the opener, Haynesworth played 45 of the Redskins defense's 61 snaps (73.7 percent). But even that was a chore for the big defensive tackle. He clearly tired in the fourth quarter, showing less push and less effort as the game wound down.

And for another, when a defensive tackle like Haynesworth is on the team, the opponent gameplans around him. That was very apparent on Sunday. When Haynesworth was in the game, the Giants generally ran the other way. And while Haynesworth is very quick for a 330-plus-pounder, he's not going to run Brandon Jacobs down from the backside.

For most of the game, the Giants tried to avoid Haynesworth at all costs. Washington made that relatively easy, as Haynesworth didn't move around much. He lined up for one play at right defensive end and one play at left defensive tackle, but for the other 43 snaps, he was at his normal right defensive tackle spot.

Run Location Att Yds Avg
Away From
10 44 4.4
At Haynesworth 3 -2 -0.7
Outside On
Haynesworth's side
8 16 2.0
On Bench
7 48 6.86
And the Giants took notice. For 15 of their 28 called running plays, they ran to the right, away from Haynesworth. They called another 10 running plays to the left, being wise enough to run outside when they did go in Haynesworth's direction. But New York ran only three plays up the middle -- which is really Haynesworth's domain. And Haynesworth played a key part in stuffing all three, including a 4th-and-1 early in the second quarter.

Haynesworth did get double-teamed at times, but he was single blocked on 33 of his 45 snaps. It was simply more effective to run away from Haynesworth than to assign two men to block him.

In the passing game, Haynesworth made less of an impact than the Redskins may have liked. He had no sacks and no quarterback hurries. A lot of that credit had to go to guard Rich Seubert. Haynesworth clearly is stronger than Seubert -- on a couple of plays he got under Seubert's shoulder pads and lifted him off the ground like he was a minor annoyance. But Seubert stayed between Haynesworth and Eli Manning and he was helped by a quick release from Manning.

Haynesworth will make the rest of the Redskins' defense better. And he'll create a lot more havoc when he's facing a weaker offensive line. But the Giants' game is a good reminder of how a defensive tackle, even a $100 million one, is unable to usually take over a game.

If you're interested in the battle at the line of scrimmage -- the most overlooked part of the NFL game -- here's some other notes from watching the lines in Week 1.

-- The 49ers beat the Cardinals in what has to be considered one of the upsets of the weekend. But there still is a cause for concern. When Marvel Smith retired during the preseason because of a back injury, it meant San Francisco was forced to return to 2008 starter Adam Snyder at right tackle. Snyder gave up 9.5 sacks in 13 starts last year (according to Stats Inc.). He was worse in the opener as three different Cardinals beat him for three sacks.

-- If Snyder had the worst season opener of any offensive lineman, Bengals right tackle Anthony Collins wasn't far ahead of him. Collins is the temporary replacement for first-round pick Andre Smith, who practiced for about an hour and a half after his holdout. In his season debut, Collins gave up two sacks and would have given up a third if Mario Haggans hadn't beaten Collins' man in a race to the quarterback.

-- Three years ago, the Falcons drafted Jamaal Anderson with the hope that he would give the team a pass rusher to pair with John Abraham. He has proven to be a colossal bust (two sacks in 33 games), and at this point, there's little hope that he'll ever change that. But the Falcons have found a compliment to Abraham, in fact, they have two. Chauncey Davis showed last year that he can generate some pressure. And against the Dolphins, second-year pro Kroy Biermann was a difference maker. Biermann had two sacks in his only game last year. He had two more against the Dolphins, which means he's now doubled Anderson's career total. But the way Biermann picked up his sacks was even more impressive. On the first sack he showed his athleticsm by jumping over tailback Ronnie Brown. On the second he showed off his strength. Biermann got under left tackle Jake Long's shoulder pads, lifted him up and then tossed him aside to pick up the sack.

-- Speaking of Long, the 2008 No. 1 pick gave up only 2.5 sacks by Stats Inc.'s reckoning last year. He gave up two sacks in the opener. Biermann used a bull rush to beat him, as did John Abraham, who also managed to get him knocked off of his feet.

-- Sean McDermott, the Eagles' new defensive coordinator, had an outstanding debut. His Eagles sacked the Panthers five times, forced two fumbles and picked off a pass. When the late Jim Johnson was the Eagles' defensive coordinator, he would sometimes confuse offenses into "blocking air" while a pass rusher came free. McDermott was able to do the same thing against Carolina, although the Panthers' schematic struggles have to be blamed as well.

The Eagles' blitz from everywhere approach has made a lot of offensive lines look bad, but it's hard to look worse than the Panthers did on Sunday. McDermott figured out flaws in the Panthers' protection scheme that allowed him to send unblocked blitzers straight up the middle. On Jake Delhomme's first sack, Trent Cole flew in unblocked on a called screen pass. Even on a screen, a quarterback has to have more than 1.6 seconds, which is how long Delhomme had before Cole wrapped him up. The second sack was even worse. Technically running back Jonathan Stewart was supposed to pick up blitzer Akeem Jordan when he flew threw the A gap (between the center and left guard) because both those linemen were occupied by other pass rushers. But Jordan timed his blitz well, so he was grabbing Delhomme just 1.25 seconds after the snap as he was finishing his backpedal, before Stewart (lined up deep at the snap) could get more than a hand on him. Philadelphia's third sack came when the Panthers' line was again given an impossible job -- three blitzers had to be blocked by two men. Delhomme didn't help by holding onto the ball for 3.3 seconds.

-- If you're looking for the pass rusher of the first weekend, the award has to go to Richard Seymour. Seymour is one of eight different pass rushers who picked up two sacks in the opener. But Seymour was the only one to beat double teams for both of his sacks. He may not be thrilled to leave New England for Oakland, but you couldn't tell it from his effort.

-- The Packers may have beaten the Bears, but they have a reason to worry about right tackle Allen Babre. Making his first start, Babre was clearly over his head trying to pass block defensive end Adewale Ogunleye. Babre showed he can run block--he's active, can move his man and is nimble enough to slide off one block and pick up linebackers. But Ogunleye established in the first quarter that he could beat Babre on a simple speed rush past Babre's outside shoulder. After picking up two sacks with the speed rush in the first quarter, Ogunleye then had Babre set up to fake an outside rush and cross over to get free to Babre's inside for a couple of quarterback hurries later on.
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