Sunday, February 28, 2010

Albert Haynesworth

[This started out as the defensive line review, but my speech on Albert Haynesworth got longer than I expected. So I'm putting this up as its own post and the rest of the DL discussion will follow shortly.]
I want to start by blowing up one myth. It was popular throughout the 2009 season to blast Albert Haynesworth for frequently rotating out of the game. He was routinely decribed as lazy, fat, out of shape, and uncommitted to winning. That is total crap.

I checked out the snap participation info that is so handily tracked by Pro Football Focus. Below are the percentage of defensive snaps that each of the Redskins’ three primary defensive tackles (Haynesworth, Cornelius Griffin, and Kedric Golston) were on the field each week.

Wk1 – AH 71% - CG 73% - KG 42%

WK2 – AH 84% - CG 49% - KG 64%

Wk3 – AH 45% - CG 77% - KG 63%

Wk4 – AH 81% - CG 46% - KG 56%

Wk5 - AH 78% - CG 0% - KG 85%

Wk6 – AH 76% - CG 46% - KG 47%

Wk7 – AH 69% - CG 0% - KG 60%

Wk8 – BYE

Wk9 – AH 83% - CG 78% - KG 32%

Wk10 – AH 74% - CG 67% - KG 40%

Wk11 – AH 0% - CG 72% - KG 83%

Wk12 – AH 0% - CG 91% - KG 49%

Wk13 – AH 71% - CG 40% - KG40%

Wk 14 – AH 0% - CG 33% - KG 75%

Wk 15 – AH 72% - CG 0% - KG 64%

Wk16 – AH 71% - CG 61% - KG 50%

Wk17 – AH 0% - CG 59% - KG 63%

There are the four games Haynesworth missed entirely with injury. Those are a separate matter than his supposedly too-frequent breathers on the sideline. He had a low snap percentage in Week 3 against Detroit – but then an injury forced him to the sidelines for multiple quarters (and remember he tried to work his way onto the field while in obvious pain). In all cases where he was available for full games, his snap percentages were in the 70s and even 80s. And he took the most DT snaps in all those games except for Week 1, where he played exactly one less snap than Griffin. He plays a position that rotates routinely. But somehow this BS narrative got started in the media, and of course gained even more traction as the team struggled. As you can see, the other DTs got just as many breaks, but they weren’t guaranteed a close-up and a torrent of snarky comments every time they went to the sideline. There is no validity – NONE – to this criticism of Albert Haynesworth.

The actual games missed with injury are a somewhat more legitimate concern. He missed four games entirely, as well as much of the aforementioned Detroit game. And as is well known he has a history of not playing complete seasons – according to Pro Football Reference his games played per season for his full career go 16, 12, 10, 14, 11, 13, 14, 12, 12. There are a few possible explanations for this:

a) He doesn’t put enough effort into his conditioning.

b) Someone that size isn’t supposed to move with as much speed and agility, and by pushing the human body beyond its natural range of performance he’s liable to tweak a muscle every now and then.

c) He plays football for a living, and there’s a significant probability that any football player will sustain an injury during the course of a season.

I do not rule out option A as a factor, but naturally it has been taken as an assumption by the media. It’s probably some combination of the three. If the new coaching staff determines that better conditioning will reduce Haynesworth’s injuries, then I’m sure they’ll emphasize that during the offseason.

Most mystifying were declarations that even when on the field Haynesworth did not play well or with full effort. I can only conclude that the people making these claims did not watch Redskins games in any detail and just chose to blame the team’s most high-profile addition for the failed season. All I saw all year were offensive linemen completely terrified by him. Not only did he routinely drive through double teams, he also showed the mobility to stunt, and blockers commonly overreacted to his motions and let others slip by. Even with no stunting at all, his presence caused tackles to shade a bit inside and thus expose their outside shoulders for the ends.

Here's some highlights from the game reviews to show why I consider him a dominant player:

Week 2 Rams - 1st half

"Steven Jackson stuffed for no gain. Griffin got the penetration and deserves credit for a nice play, but it wouldn’t have happened without another double team hanging onto Haynesworth for dear life."

Week 4 vs. Buccaneers - 1st half

"Haynesworth uses his agility to slip past the LG, who is left blocking air in a rather comical manner (he even maintains good leverage against the empty space). Haynesworth then bowls over the center to flush Johnson from the pocket, and the LG recovers from his shock and confusion to turn around push Haynesworth down from behind, which is totally illegal but nobody notices."

Week 5 vs. Panthers - 1st half

"A run up the middle by DeAngelo Williams. The LT ignores Carter at RE and instead tries to cut Haynesworth legs from under him. The LT is too slow getting low, so Haynesworth helps him out by putting a hand on his back and shoving him the rest of the way to the ground. This allows Haynesworth to hurtle him, grab Williams from behind, and pull him down for a 2 yard gain."

Week 12 vs, Eagles - 2nd quarter

"Haynesworth is immediately chop blocked, but goes over the blocker and keeps himself off the ground with his hand. Without time to regain his footing, he pushes of with his hands and keeps crawling towards McNabb in a manner that reminded me of the Terminator relentlessly coming after you even after you blow off his legs. This forces the C to come over and lay on top of Haynesworth to keep him down, which means the C is unavailable to pick up Orakpo when he stunts to the inside. Orakpo doesn’t have time to get all the way to McNabb but he does manage to fill the passing lane, which forces McNabb to throw behind his receiver downfield. Too bad Haynesworth quit trying after cashing his paycheck, eh?"

Albert Haynesworth is a dominant player, period.  The fact that he got a big contract did not cause the Redskins to go 4-12.

More to come soon with the full DL review.


  1. Dave,
    Thanks for pointing out the amount of snaps that Haynesworth does take on the field.
    I think the biggest problems about Haynesworth and the media (and some fans) in particular:

    1. With the 100 mil. contract fans are expecting highlight plays on every play which is ridiculous, but you know how Skins fans can be.

    2. Haynesworth gets injured every season and you have to expect him to miss and average of 2-4 games a year. The failure of the Redskins was to not find a suitable backup to replace Haynesworth when he's injured. Golston in certain situations can do that, but he's more of a rotational player than a starter and it shows when he plays the run (he tends to get blown off the LOS at times). Montgomery is an underachiever and was injured.

    3. The "flop" injuries. This is a pet peeve of mine with Albert. When he needs a breather he falls down, flops a bit like he's really hurt and gets pulled off the field. Then he'll be back in the game perefectly fine. The Detroit game was a great example as I thought he was done for the season and then comes back by the end of the game.

    - Hopefully Shanahan will get him in better shape, but Haynesworth made a significant impact. When was the last time the Skins have had two players with double digit sacks (Orakpo, Carter)?

  2. WD -

    1)That's true (although the 100 mil contract is total fiction, but that's another discussion). But I thought he did generate alot of highlights... but I find myself lonely in the conviction that DTs are the most important players on a defense.

    2) I agree that Montgomery is a stiff, but Haynesworth, Golston, and Griffin made up a pretty good rotation, I tnought (more detail in the DL review). I'm not sure a 4th good DT would have been a good use of resources last offseason.

    3)Interesting point. I would point out that in the Detroit game he only came back on for a few plays before it became clear he was in no condition to play and was pulled back out again.


    How about how Big Al might fit in a 3/4 densive alignment... I always felt he was trying and mostly did great.. One man can not a team make.

    Thanks again for the work

  4. Bill Barnwell at Football Outsiders says Pro Football Focus snap counts are often off by up to 20%. Are there other stats somewhere? I want to believe, I really do...