Redskins notes, quotes and observations (Thu, 10/28)
It was interesting to hear DL Albert Haynesworth this morning say he doesn’t mind coming off the bench because “I’m not good enough to play the 3-4.”
You don’t hear NFL players admit they’re not good enough at something. Like, ever. Usually if they have a deficiency, they work hard to improve at it—or at least publicly say they’re doing so.
Haynesworth, however, asked coaches to take him out of the Redskins’ “Okie” package (their base 3-4 alignment) rather than press forward. He did not embrace the technique changes required in the transition from a 3-technique in a 4-3 to a 3-4 lineman. Specifically, moving laterally for two steps after the snap to read run or pass instead of just moving forward and attacking the ball.
“If you look at my career as a pro and in college, all we did was attack,” Haynesworth said. “It was straight ahead. You had your run gap. The 3-4, you have to wait to see what the offensive linemen do and if he goes a certain way I have to shuffle a whole lot to get in front of him. It’s a completely different game for me.”
Haynesworth’s refusal to commit to the 3-4 is nothing new. We’ve been talking about it since early last offseason. It’s worth noting again, though, because this team is sticking with a 3-4 going forward, and that will affect the team’s decision whether to keep Haynesworth as a part of that.
“He can do anything he wants to do, he’s just got to want to do it,” defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. “He’s athletic and he’s big enough. It’s more of a mindset than anything.”
Haynesworth’s recent success in his simplified role raises the question whether he could somehow be part of the team’s future plans if he plays at a high level for the remainder of the season.
There’s widespread belief that Haynesworth will be elsewhere next year, but let’s play devil’s advocate for a moment. What if Haynesworth takes off in this role? Let’s say he averages a sack per game and makes a half-dozen game-changing plays the rest of the way, could the Redskins keep him around as a pass-rush/short-yardage specialist?
He’s already under contract for next season at a non-guaranteed $5.4 million, so they’d have to decide whether his production is worth that money as it relates to whatever salary cap parameters are re-established. If Haynesworth is wrecking shop, though, that’s not a lot of money for a player who can single-handedly change the game.
Haynesworth’s participation in the offseason program would likely factor in to the team’s decision, but because he will have played a year in the system, his game performance wouldn’t depend so heavily on attendance. We already know that QB Donovan McNabb normally didn’t attend a lot of Philadelphia’s voluntary workouts, and—if the Redskins’ re-sign him—he could also skip a lot of workouts here. Would Shanahan hold it against Haynesworth if McNabb skips, too?
We’re getting too far ahead of ourselves here, obviously. Let’s see if Haynesworth can simply stay healthy for the rest of the season. However, keep the thought in the back of your mind that maybe Haynesworth’s departure isn’t a lock just yet. Haynesworth wants to leave and get to a 4-3 team where he can attack the ball on every down, but that might not be in the Redskins’ best interest if another team doesn’t make them a sweet trade offer.
DL Vonnie Holliday had a telling quote about Albert today: “A lot of the problems he was having early on are the same problems these guys were having when I showed up here in minicamps and OTAs,” he said. “He was just behind the learning curve.”
The point is clear. If Haynesworth had showed up in the offseason, perhaps he would have made this big of an impact before Week 7.
Credit Haslett and Shanahan for realizing the value in granting Haynesworth’s request to be removed from the base package and used exclusively in passing and short-yardage situations.
“The good coaches in the league are smart enough to know that you try to get a guy to fit the system, but there’s no reason why you can’t change the system to fit the guy,” Haslett said. “If you’ve got a good football player, try to get him on the field and use him.”
Seems logical, no? Haynesworth said the decision was made around Week 2 or 3. In other words, after the Dallas game.
Shanahan said he felt no sense of resignation in shelving his plans for using Haynesworth in the 3-4 front. I don’t believe he’d ever admit defeat on this, and I’m not sure you can call it that, anyway.
“What you’re always looking at is you’re trying to find the best people for different schemes,” Shanahan said. “You’ve got to play anywhere from 25-35 snaps regardless of who you are. If it’s rushing the quarterback, if it’s playing nose tackle/defensive end then you want to make sure when they’re in there they’re effective in whatever defense you’re playing.”
Haynesworth is aware of what is said and written about him in the media, and he does care about it. He doesn’t always act to ensure positive things are said about him, but that’s another story. The point is that how he is perceived and remembered is important to him.
He was asked today what his goals are for the rest of the season. “Just to keep playing and help teammates and make plays, and I guess get noticed more so people can’t say I’m a bust.”
Haynesworth has maintained an individualistic approach ever since the Redskins signed him. He seems to always mention the importance of sacks and reputation above things like championships. That’s not the type of player Shanahan covets.
NFL Network’s Mike Lombardi today wrote that Haynesworth’s block of Chicago RT J’Marcus Webb on CB DeAngelo Hall’s touchdown should be classified with the violent helmet-to-helmet hits that garnered widespread scrutiny last week.
Shanahan said he would have to analyze the block more closely to determine whether Webb was, in fact, a defenseless player or if the hit was helmet-to-helmet or otherwise illegal.
My take, for what it’s worth, is ‘no’ on all counts. Webb was chasing the play by only 11 yards, approximately. If you’re defenseless and out of the play, stop running.
Shanahan said he has gone to bat for players in some instances in the past when they’ve faced disciplinary action by the league. It’ll be interesting to get the final word on this from the league tomorrow.
Haynesworth rushed the passer once on Sunday from a stand-up position instead of a 3-point stance. Holliday has done this, too. The point is to create confusion among the offensive linemen.
As we’ve talked about with OLB Andre Carter, though, pass rushers can lose leverage when they’re not used to rushing standing up.
“It takes some getting used to,” Holliday said. “When you’re used to playing in a 3- or 4-point stance and then you’re standing up, it’s the whole technique part of it, and that’s why we practice it. When we’re out there in practice and going through drills to teach the guys who haven’t been standing up to get down and get lower because it is a different technique.”
Haynesworth said his pre-snap stance didn’t matter to him. Most of the Redskins, however, appear more effective from a down position.
On the subject, Haynesworth said–and I’m not kidding: “Sometimes I’m too lazy to get in my stance.”
Speaking of Carter, he’s proof that Shanahan and Haslett didn’t bend their rules just for Haynesworth. Carter has been effectively moved from outside linebacker back to defensive end in pass-rushing situations. He exclusively plays as an end in the nickel now, and he’s putting his hand on the ground most of the time because he was ineffective in a 2-point stance. Just another example of Shanahan maximizing a player’s best attributes.
RB Ryan Torain did not attribute his two fumbles on Sunday to the vicious hit that Chicago LB Pisa Tinoisamoa delivered. “I think it was just a lack of focus,” he said. “I need to keep the ball high and tight and keep working hard with it.”
Shanahan on Wednesday attributed the first fumble to the hit and said lingering effects from it contributed to the Torain’s second fumble.
Shanahan’s confidence in K Graham Gano seems entirely genuine. He understands that young kickers will struggle, and he has been impressed by Gano’s kickoffs and performance in practice. It appears as though Shanahan is going to ride out these growing pains with Gano for the foreseeable future. As you might imagine, that means a lot to Gano. It helps alleviate some of the pressure.
“I think it’s definitely important that people have my back and have their confidence,” Gano said. “That’s what I’m trying to build on this season. But I definitely don’t like missing, and I’m going to work on cutting that out. This week I’m going to have a really good game and make everybody forget the misses.”
Just because the Redskins aren’t getting many receptions from their third receiver doesn’t mean the players (Joey Galloway and, previously, Anthony Armstrong) aren’t doing a good job, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said.
“It just means he’s not getting the ball,” he said. “If he’s not getting the ball because he can’t separate, we wouldn’t have him out there.”
I wish I had access to the coach’s tape to check Shanahan on that separation issue. I find it hard to believe that Galloway is running open all the time, but what do I know?
Mike Shanahan conceded today that he did not expect RT Jammal Brown to be affected by his surgically repaired him this deep into the season. As for whether the bye week will help get Brown healthy, he said: “I’m not confident.”
Shanahan believes Brown will play this week against Detroit, but the longer Brown goes with limited range of motion and reduced overall athleticism, the worse the trade for Brown gets. At this point, they spent a conditional third- or fourth-round pick on a player who has never been healthy—not the type of deal that makes a champion.
This week’s game at Detroit has been blacked out on TV in the Detroit area.