Thursday, July 28, 2011
Storylines to consider with Haynesworth
By Jeremy Lundblad
With Albert Haynesworth reportedly packing his bags for New England, here are three storylines to consider:
Haynesworth and the 3-4
Haynesworth's 30.5 sacks are the seventh most among active defensive tackles.
However, only one of those sacks came with just three defenders on the line, according to STATS LLC.
In many ways, the 3-4 alignment was Haynesworth's downfall in Washington. He made a good deal of noise about his dislike for it.
"I'm just not that good at it. It's completely changing the style of my game," he told 106.7 The Fan in December.
The Patriots have long used a 3-4, which calls into question how Haynesworth will fit in.
It's worth noting that there will be plenty of snaps outside of that alignment even if no adjustments are made to accommodate Haynesworth.
New England used a 3-4 on 40.1 percent of defensive snaps in 2011, just the 11th most in the NFL. Compare that to the Redskins, who used it on 50.6 percent of snaps, fifth most in the NFL.
That said, don't expect a 4-3, in which the Pats lined up on only three of 1,056 defensive plays last season.
A weapon on third down
Even if he isn't a presence in a 3-4 alignment (which remains to be seen), Haynesworth still brings a great deal of value to a defensive front that struggled to pressure the quarterback.
Consider that over the past three seasons combined, the Patriots have only 50 sacks from defensive linemen. That's the fourth fewest in the NFL over that span.
So perhaps it will be on the pass rush where Haynesworth truly makes his mark. It was on third down where the Patriots were most deficient, managing only eight sacks all season. Only the Jets and Falcons (both with six) had fewer sacks on third down.
Even in limited playing time, Haynesworth had 2.5 sacks on third down in 2010. Of his 6.5 sacks in two seasons with the Redskins, 5.5 came on third down.
Opponents averaged 7.75 yards per passing attempt on third down against the Patriots, third highest in the league. Only the Lions and Jaguars were worse.
That issue reared its ugly head in the postseason against the Jets. Mark Sanchez went 6-9 for 74 yards, two touchdowns and a 131.5 passer rating on third down.
Rebirth at 30?
In June, Haynesworth turned 30. In the past, that age has meant a new beginning for players under Bill Belichick.
Corey Dillon turned 30 one month into his first season with New England. Randy Moss was 30 when the Patriots traded for him in 2007. Both brought off-field issues and reputations as malcontents. So it's hard not to view the Haynesworth acquisition in terms of those previous Belichick gambles.
Of course, 30 can mean different things for a defensive lineman than it does for a running back or wide receiver.
Though less flashy than the Moss or Dillon deals, Belichick has a history of bringing in experienced big bodies to put on the defensive line.
Anthony Pleasant and Rick Lyle were 33 when they joined the Patriots in 2001. Ted Washington was 35 when he formed a one-man wall in the middle in 2003. Then came Keith Traylor (35) in 2004, and most recently Gerard Warren (32) in 2010.
In comparison to those names, Haynesworth just might have a bit more left in his legs.
He joins one of the NFL's most experienced lines, one that includes Ty Warren (30), Vince Wilfork (29), Mike Wright (29) and Marcus Stroud (33).
Haynesworth has had trouble staying on the field in the past. Only in 2002, his first season, did he play in all 16 games.
Jeremy Lundblad is a researcher with ESPN Stats & Information. He provides statistical analysis for ESPNBoston.com. Jason Starrett of ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.