A look at the Redskins entering training camp:
The skinny: The Redskins have remade their defensive line after switching to a 3-4. Several ends have switched to outside linebacker and numerous players were added: Adam Carriker, Ma’ake Kemoeatu, Howard Green, Vonnie Holliday among them. Phillip Daniels could start again at left end; he has good size for a 3-4 end. But the big question revolves around Albert Haynesworth. He must be motivated and must accept his role in this defense. Will he? Kedric Golston is a solid player and best served as a backup.
Cause for optimism: The reports suggest Haynesworth is in shape and motivated to prove that last year was a fluke and, perhaps, to try and convince other teams to trade for him in the offseason. When he’s motivated – typically by a contract – he dominates. That’s been true back to high school. The Redskins added quality locker room guys such as Holliday and Carriker and might have found a good nose tackle in Kemoeatu, who fits the description of what is needed at this spot. If coordinator Jim Haslett moves Haynesworth around as much as he says he wants to, then that should please the big fella and allow the defense to be more aggressive and difficult to dissect. Daniels and Golston have the proper mindsets for this line to flourish; both understand their role is to make the linebackers look good and are comfortable doing that. In any 3-4, that’s how linemen must feel.
Cause for concern: If Kemoeatu hasn’t fully recovered from his Achilles injury, how effective can he be? Carriker has been injury-plagued. We don’t know how Daniels and Golston will fare in this front considering they haven’t played it before. If Haynesworth merely wants to show how good he is – and not necessarily how well he fits the scheme – that could lead to breakdowns elsewhere as he tries to make plays.
The verdict: Worse. But here comes that asterisk again. It’s hard to compare to last year simply because they used a different front. When healthy last year, particularly with Cornelius Griffin and Haynesworth as tackles, that group was solid. We simply don’t know how this group will fare; with all the changes and adjustments everyone is making it’s hard to know. Plus even if Haynesworth is in good shape, does that mean he’ll be a team player? He must be in order for this defense to flourish. Sometimes that means making plays; sometimes that means getting his butt kicked by two linemen (as he’s done in the past). If Haynesworth flourishes, this line will as well. But the reality is that Kemoeatu is coming off an injury and typically has played tackle in a 4-3; Carriker hasn’t done much in his career, partly because of injuries and also because he’s always been in a 4-3 and is better suited to a 3-4) and Daniels, tough and strong as he may be, is 37. They will use a 4-3 on pass downs, putting Andre Carter back at end. That helps.