It’s about Haynesworth’s role, not his position
Albert Haynesworth’s absence from the Redskins’ voluntary minicamp over the weekend cast a bit of a pall over the proceedings.
Veterans on every team skip these camps, so that’s nothing new. But Haynesworth was the only Redskin missing from a session that wasn’t your run-of-the-mill minicamp. The new coaching staff continued to implement the team’s new defense, making the three days extremely important.
And Haynesworth didn’t stay away because of a contract situation like Rocky McIntosh did at the first minicamp last month. Players are more understanding when their teammate has contract concerns because they can empathize. No one at Redskins Park is feeling sorry for Haynesworth and his $41 million guaranteed.
That’s why a few players spoke out about his absence. Phillip Daniels, Haynesworth’s fellow defensive lineman, offered the sharpest critique of all. “He’s got to be here,” Daniels was quoted as saying.
Daniels has spoken out when veterans (Shawn Springs, for example) have skipped the offseason program in the past. At age 37, he’s one of the locker room leaders. He’s got the persona for it, too. Daniels has long played the unsung role of run-stopping defensive end, and he played through a torn biceps tendon last year. Heck, he still hasn’t had it surgically repaired. He’s a team-first guy to the core.
Daniels notes that defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has said Haynesworth will play some defensive end in the Redskins new scheme, but that obviously isn’t the carrot Haynesworth is seeking.
This isn’t about Haynesworth playing nose tackle or defensive end. It’s about his responsibilities at whatever position he plays. Haynesworth doesn’t want to be a space eater whose main role is to occupy offensive linemen and free linebackers to make the tackles. He wants to rush the passer and penetrate the backfield. That’s what the Redskins told him his role would be before he signed his mega-contract last offseason.
The new 3-4 alignment changed that. As defensive end Adam Carriker said on Saturday, the defensive ends in this scheme aren’t asked to penetrate. “It’s going to basically be two-gapping and keeping the linebackers clean in this 3-4 defense, [which is] is what I’m asked to do here,” he said.
Now, just because Carriker isn’t being asked to penetrate and wreak havoc doesn’t mean that will apply to Haynesworth if Haynesworth plays defensive end. They have different skill-sets that could be used accordingly.
Haynesworth is going to show up eventually, and Haslett and coach Mike Shanahan will have to contend with having an unhappy Haynesworth inside the locker room. That means they’ll have to find unique ways to use Haynesworth or risk having this delicate situation devolve further.
Whether the coaches are creative enough to use Haynesworth in a way simultaneously satisfies his desire to wreak havoc and fits the scheme is the key to making this work.
I’m just not sure that balance exists.