Minicamp Gives Clues to Washington Redskins Scheme Changes

Rich TandlerSenior Analyst IMay 6, 2009

ASHBURN, VA - MAY 1:  Albert Haynesworth #92 of the Washington Redskins walks off the field after minicamp on May 1, 2009 at Redskins Park in Ashurn, Virginia.   (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Minicamp is conducted in helmets and shorts. The plays that are run in seven-on-seven drills and in scrimmages are at walk-through speed and they utilize just the basic elements of the offensive schemes.

So, in order to find out what changes there will be in the Washington Redskins’ schemes in 2009, we have to look for other clues.

One indication of a strategy shift came straight from the mouth of Albert Haynesworth, Washington’s $100 million man.

“I’m not a space eater,” he said.

That was the primary job description of the Redskins’ defense tackles under coordinator Greg Blache last year. The idea was for the tackles to engage blockers to let London Fletcher and the other linebackers make the plays.

But you don’t have to pay $42 million in guaranteed money to a space eater. You can get a stationary wide body for a fraction of that. You pay that kind of money for a playmaker and that’s what Haynesworth is going to be. He will shoot gaps, stunt occasionally, and be counted on to rack up a couple of tackles for loss each game and a half a dozen sacks on the season.

The announcement that Brian Orakpo, the Redskins’ first-round draft pick, split his practice time with the linebackers and the defensive line gave another indication of a defensive playbook shift. Coach Jim Zorn said that the current plan was to have Orakpo playing the strong side linebacker position on first and second downs and in a three-point stance at left defensive end in passing situations.

That will be fine except when the opposing offenses pass on running downs. Orakpo simply doesn’t have the experience to cover the likes of the tight ends the Redskins will face this year—Witten, Winslow, Gonzalez, and Gates, just to name those who have made Pro Bowls. The Redskins will have to shade their coverage to help out Orakpo and perhaps play more zone than they did in 2008.

On the other side of the ball, it doesn’t look like we’ll see much different. Zorn has emphasized how much the offense should improve just by the players having spent a full season in his system. He’s going to have a trick or two up his sleeve, but nothing we will see until they open the season Sept. 13 against the Giants in the Meadowlands.