The Big Question: Replacing Haynesworth

May, 18, 2010
5/18/10
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What would the Redskins’ defensive line look like without Albert Haynesworth?

[+] EnlargeMaake Kemoeatu
G. Newman Lowrance/Getty ImagesMaake Kemoeatu's bulk and power make him an ideal fit as a 3-4 nose tackle, but can he stay healthy?
Haynesworth doesn’t want to play in a 3-4 scheme, which is exactly what is being implemented in Washington as we speak. It still remains a real possibility that the Redskins will move their star defensive lineman. If that happens -- and no defensive players are received in the deal -- who will line up in the Redskins’ front three and what will be the impact of his departure?

There isn’t a more disruptive player in the league than Haynesworth when he is on his game and he is capable of doing more or less whatever he wants on a football field. If motivated, he could be a fantastic nose tackle, or better yet, a 3-4 end for Washington. But enough about his abilities. For the sake of this piece, Haynesworth is elsewhere.

At nose tackle, the Redskins were shrewd in signing Maake Kemoeatu. Health could be a concern, but he is custom-made to man the nose in this scheme with his bulk, power and run-stuffing abilities. Still, the fact that Kemoeatu missed all of 2009 with an Achilles tendon injury has to give you pause. I am not a doctor, but I am guessing that his extreme mass puts a lot of stress on a recovering Achilles and this injury surely hasn’t helped this massive human being’s conditioning in the meantime.

Kedric Golston is the other candidate for nose tackle. He is more of an upfield player than Kemoeatu, but he isn’t as massive or stout. These two should be solid in a rotation, but if Kemoeatu’s health becomes a major problem, I would worry about Golston’s ability to hold down the spot full time. He plays hard, though, and has starting experience. Still, you need more than that to excel at nose tackle in the NFL, even on a two-down basis.

With the current group of nose tackles, it is feasible that Haynesworth could be a disruptive end in this scheme, a la Richard Seymour. To me, that is the way to best utilize his skills, while also making him happier with the scheme change. Of course, he also could play nose tackle and on throwing downs would be a beast as an interior pass-rusher. But without him, the Redskins are very light at the end position.

Phillip Daniels looks pretty set as a starter. He is a bigger base end in the 4-3 whose abilities should translate well to the new scheme. And this switch should extend his career, but he is 37, so who knows how long he can contribute. If he can hold up, Daniels should be solid enough as a run stopper. But how many snaps can he play?

Two others whom I see potentially making an impact are Adam Carriker and Jeremy Jarmon. Both have ability. When they were running a 4-3, the Redskins used a third-round supplemental pick on Jarmon, but he probably would have been drafted higher than that in the typical draft format. But now he is playing in a 3-4, where his upfield abilities will not be utilized as much and he will be asked to anchor into the ground and stack and shed against bigger men. I am not writing him off for this detail -- he has the size to adapt, he is very young and improved as his rookie season went along -- but it is not what he was drafted to do.

In the 2007 draft, St. Louis used the 13th overall pick on Carriker to play in its 4-3 scheme. But he was miscast in that role and is clearly better suited to play end in an odd front. Injuries have been the big problem for Carriker and even when healthy, he has yet to show much in the NFL in any capacity. But I was extremely high on Carriker coming out of Nebraska as a 3-4 end prospect, so it wouldn’t shock me if he revitalized his career to some degree in Washington.

Recognizing the problem at defensive end, the Redskins signed Vonnie Holliday on Monday. Much like Daniels, he is a veteran without upside, but he does have the grit and experience needed to hold his own in the trenches. In fact, he played quite well for the Broncos last season and might still be the best pass-rusher of the current group of defensive ends in Washington. Still, keeping his snaps low would be wise at his age (34).

Trust me, I am not a believer in keeping unmotivated players who do not want to be with the team. And in the 3-4, you can often get by with tough, try-hard guys who do their job without a lot of fanfare. But if Haynesworth leaves town, the Redskins’ defensive line looks pretty atrocious to me.

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