Just in time to face the New Orleans Saints’ league-leading offense Sunday, the Washington Redskins will welcome All-Pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth back after he spent two weeks on the shelf with a sprained left ankle.
Without Haynesworth the past two weeks, Washington’s defense didn’t get burned for long runs similar to those by St. Louis’ Steven Jackson, Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson and Atlanta’s Michael Turner earlier this season, but Dallas and Philadelphia pounded the ball at the Redskins.
Dallas ran the ball 33 times and had possession for 31:26, both the most against the Redskins since Week 6. Philadelphia followed suit with 29 carries in 30:18. The Cowboys and Eagles combined to gain 276 yards, 12 more yards on average than Washington’s seventh-ranked defense had allowed through the first nine games.
“Albert, obviously, he’s a disruptive player,” linebacker London Fletcher said. “You don’t have many 6-foot-6, 350-pound All-Pro players around, so when you lose one it’s going to [affect] you.”
Trouble is, the Redskins - ranked 25th against the run compared with eighth last year, when Kedric Golston was in Haynesworth’s spot - were springing leaks before losing the big tackle.
“Since Atlanta, teams have been trying to run the football on us,” Fletcher said. “Until you hold somebody to 50, 60, 70 yards rushing, you’re going to continue to get that attack. The runs [the Eagles] hit us with were runs that we had practiced [defending] all week. Yet we get in the game and still allow those runs. These were their bread and butter runs. When you know what’s going to happen and you don’t stop it, it’s very discouraging.”
Golston, who started again in Haynesworth’s absence, said there hasn’t been a glaring deficiency that can be fixed, Haynesworth or no Haynesworth.
“It’s not just one thing you can point to,” Golston said. “Everybody has one gap. If you miss a tackle or you’re not in your gap, then it stresses out the whole defense, and that’s what’s been happening. The smallest little thing [isn’t executed properly], and it’s five yards gained. Then it’s 3 yards gained. Then it’s 15 yards gained. That stuff adds up over time.”
Haynesworth doesn’t feel pressure to be the difference-maker upon his return, because he always feels that way.
“I don’t think I have to do more coming back,” he said. “I just gotta do my job. When I’m in there, people know I’m in there.”
Redskins secondary coach Jerry Gray said the Saints, who rank a surprising fifth in rushing with the relatively unknown 1-2 punch of Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell, will certainly know No. 92 is back.
“Now they’ve got to pay attention to what Albert’s going to do,” Gray said. “It creates… more problems for them. We’ve got our D-line back intact. We’ve got pass rushers and guys that can stop the run. It makes us a little more dangerous.”
Hall all but out
Cornerback DeAngelo Hall remained out of practice Friday, as he has since spraining his right knee Nov. 22 at Dallas.
Coach Jim Zorn wouldn’t rule him out but said Hall “still hasn’t been able to [move] laterally like we want.” If Hall can’t play, Carlos Rogers and Fred Smoot would start at the corners. Justin Tryon, limited again Friday with a hip pointer, would be the nickel back.