Disgruntled defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth played the best game of his Redskins career against the Chicago Bears in week 7. He recorded his first sack of the season with 9:39 remaining in the first quarter. Playing as one of four defensive linemen, Haynesworth sacked Cutler on third-down for a 10-yard loss. The week 7 sack deserves another look because it hints at what might have been. It was one of the rare moments in which Redskins-era Albert played like vintage, sack-machine Albert. After all, isn’t that why the team offered him $100 million to come to Washington?
Sacking the quarterback isn’t a terribly remarkable feat in and of itself. Defenders do it every Sunday. Sacking Cutler in 2010 was less remarkable. By week 7, the Bears QB had been sacked a league-leading 27 times. But the way Haynesworth took him down – now that was something to see. As Cutler dropped back to pass the ball, Albert used his size and power to shove left guard Chris Williams 10 yards down field and into Cutler. Both Bears toppled to the turf. Now let’s do the math. Chris Williams stands 6’6" tall and weighs 315 pounds. Jay Cutler stands 6’3" tall and weighs 233 pounds. Combined, Williams and Cutler make 12’9" and 548 pounds of hulking man. For Haynesworth, who has to move a 6’6" and 335 pound frame, to spring forward with enough power to drive 315 pounds 10 yards is solid. To do it with enough speed to catch Cutler before he threw the ball is great. To finish by pushing 548 pounds to the dirt is unreal. It’s sick. It’s scary, but good scary. The kind of scary that makes opponents feel nauseous and teammates feel unbeatable. A player like him should be cause for celebration.
That sack gave Washington fans a taste of the talent that drew the franchise to Haynesworth in the first place. Unfortunately, the sack also would be fans’ last glimpse of the explosiveness for which he had been famous. Why? That’s a tougher question to answer than many people allow. In short, the parties involved wanted to pursue their own agendas more than they wanted to make the Haynesworth situation work. No. 92 wanted to play his way more than he wanted to contribute to the team. Shanahan wanted strict obedience from his players more than he wanted to use Albert’s talent. The team wanted to transition to the 3-4 more than they wanted to play a defense at which their players excel.
Upon arriving in DC to negotiate what would become a $100 million contract, Haynesworth insisted that he be allowed to keep playing the role he had played in the Titans’ 4-3 scheme. Only a year later, the Redskins’ new 3-4 forced him to play nose tackle. Rather than powering through the offensive line to sack the quarterback as he had done in before, he would be moving laterally to neutralize two blockers and free up space for his teammates to pressure the quarterback.
Albert built his reputation as the game’s most ferocious defensive tackle on rushing the passer. The prospect of being forced into nose tackle rankled him because it prevented him from playing to his strengths. Comparing Haynesworth the nose tackle to Haynesworth the pass-rusher is like night and day. One needs only to watch the play in question to see that he was born to get after the quarterback. That he lives to get after the quarterback. Waste his combination of size and speed absorbing blockers? Makes no sense. Who on the field is better at bringing down the opponent? Probably no one. Albert was stubborn and selfish in his refusal to go along with the new game plan. He also had a point.
Let’s get back to the play at hand. Brian Orakpo lined up to Haynesworth’s right as an edge-rusher, putting 4 defenders on the line of scrimmage as was the norm in Tennessee. After the snap, Kendrick Golston absorbed two blockers, leaving Albert one-on-one with Chris Williams. Rather than running around him or over him, No. 92 ran with him all the way to Jay Cutler and knocked both Bears to the ground. The play shows how well the Redskins play a 4-3 defense and how dominant Haynesworth can be. It’s a virtual blueprint of an effective pass-rush. A blueprint the team spent most of the season ignoring.