A while back I made a crack on Twitter about the Redskins seeming “determined to reassemble the Patriots’ 2007 [wide receiver] corps.” Jabar Gaffney and Donte Stallworth were already in camp, I noted, and, if Mike Shanahan wanted to continue in this vein, Randy Moss was still available. (This was before the petulant one announced his retirement.)
So it’s only fair to point out that the Pats appear bent on reconstructing the Redskins’ 2010 defensive line. They traded for head-stomping tackle Albert Haynesworth as soon as the NFL resumed business, and now they’ve signed pass rusher Andre Carter. (And Phillip Daniels, let’s not forget, is still out there.)
Fortunately for the Redskins, Haynesworth and Carter are in the other conference now, so they can’t terrorize their old team too much. But they could do some damage Dec. 11, when New England comes to FedEx Field. That is, assuming Albert hasn’t lost interest by then.
In many ways, these are classic Bill Belichick pickups. Belichick got a nice season out of Ted Washington late in his career – he held down the middle of the line on the 2003 club that won the Super Bowl – and he has even greater hopes no doubt for Haynesworth, who at 30 is five years younger than Washington was.
As for Carter, he’s a smart guy – the son of a former NFL player (Rubin Carter) and current college coach (New Mexico). And Bill, of course, is the son of a former NFL player (Steve Belichick) and longtime college coach (Navy).
Frankly, I’d be surprised if both players didn’t do the Patriots some good, maybe a lot of good. Much of that depends on high-strung Albert, of course. He’s the joker in the Pats’ deck. But there are indications Belichick might switch to a 4-3 defense, which would enable Haynesworth to play his preferred position – tackle rather than nose tackle – and, almost as exciting, to line up next to Pro Bowler Vince Wilfork. That’s a scary twosome right there. What’s an offensive coordinator supposed to do? He can’t double team both of them.
Some will say Big Al is an accident waiting to happen, but it’s hard to imagine his relationship with Belichick being as strained as it was with Shanahan, a coach who publicly embarrassed him and wasn’t very inclined to play to Haynesworth’s strengths. Besides, Albert knows his livelihood is at stake now; if he misbehaves, Belichick won’t hesitate to get rid of him – as he did Randy Moss last year. I mean, let’s face it, if Haynesworth can’t be happy with a team that wins almost every week, where can he be happy?
It’ll be just as interesting, though, to see how Carter fits in as a situational pass rusher. With all the attention being paid Wilfork and Haynesworth, Andre could find himself in some advantageous matchups. And while he’s not young, he’s in way too good shape to call old. Converting him to an outside linebacker last season when the Redskins went to the 3-4 – instead of trading him to a club that needed a quarterback-pressuring end – was one of the more confounding decisions Shanahan made after taking over the team. Andre, remember, was coming off an 11-sack year. He had some market value. Instead, the Redskins wound up releasing him (in the offseason, after the linebacker experiment failed and Shanny decided he needed more youth on the roster).
We won’t know until they start lining up, but Carter could be for the Patriots what Darren Howard has been for the Eagles the last two years – or for that matter, what Bruce Smith (10 sacks at the age of 37) and Tony McGee (10 at 34) were for the Redskins in seasons past. New England’s biggest problem in recent years had been the lack of a pass rush; Andre – along with another veteran end Belichick has brought in, Shaun Ellis – could give the Pats a real boost in that area. It’s what he does best.
Shawn Springs, the erstwhile Redskins cornerback, didn’t contribute much to the Patriots’ cause two years ago, but by then he was damaged goods. (His legs were simply gone.) Haynesworth and Carter’s prospects would seem to be much more promising. We’ll find out in December – if not sooner.