What Jay Cutler Tells Us about Albert Haynesworth

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What Jay Cutler Tells Us about Albert Haynesworth
(Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Jay Cutler was the hottest commodity in pro-football in March. But his stock is falling in the fantasy football world.

The difference in Cutler as a fantasy stud is the difference in Denver's and Chicago's offense.

Fantasy football guru Michael Fabiano in his Mailbag on NFL.com says this about Cutler:

"Thus, (Cutler) finished with a ridiculous 616 pass attempts -- some of those attempts came when the team was behind because of its porous defense. He probably won't even throw the football 500 times in 2009, especially with a talented runner like Matt Forte in the backfield. Cutler, who went in the ninth round in two recent expert league drafts, is still a No. 1 fantasy quarterback, but he's no longer an elite option."

Fantasy football isn't real football, but it has something to teach fans--and owners--of NFL teams. Talent is transferable, performance not always.

Hindsight tells us how a hotshot performed on his old team. How will that player perform on his new team with the talent there and the way his new coaches will use him?

Differences in circumstance lead to a different performance—not failure, just different.

Clinton Portis is a successful tailback for the Washington Redskins (7331 yards total offense, 45 touchdowns, three pass completions for three touchdowns), but has never been the explosive rusher he was with Denver.

Joe Gibbs' downfield offense called for a power back. Opposing defenses stacked against Portis. Mike Shanahan's West Coast Offense called for Portis to rush the perimeter, often against stretched defenses.

Different circumstances, different performance.

The Redskin bloggers I follow were unanimously opposed to the proposed trade of Jason Campbell for Jay Cutler. They were as opposed to a reach for Mark Sanchez in last month's draft.

Their comments centered on the marginal improvement to be expected from Cutler for the Redskins' 2009 season and on a decided preference to use first round picks to boost Washington's pass rushing or offensive blocking.

We weren't taken in enough by Cutler's gaudy numbers to expect the same in Jim Zorn's offense, so we didn't see Cutler as worth the cost of bring him to Washington. Chicago saw things differently.

Fabiano foresees a different performance for Cutler because he's surrounded by Bears' talent and Bears coaching. Not failure, mind you; just different.

Keep that in mind for Albert Haynesworth

Albert Haynesworth will be a formidable presence on Washington's D-line.

His success in Tennessee owed as much to the Titans' very talented defensive line as to Big Al's own talent.

Haynesworth's performance with Washington depends as much on how defensive coordinator Greg Blache blends him with the talent here as on Haynesworth's own skills. What Blache does with Haynesworth will be the story of the defense this year.

The Skins operated since 2006 with the idea of coverage sacks. Joe Gibbs explained the idea as disrupting the opposing quarterback's timing by forcing him to hold the ball longer than desired.

It was an interesting idea that exploited the talents of the linebackers and secondary -- the "back seven." The Skins used defensive linemen to protect the linebackers from offensive linemen more than forcing early throws by the quarterback.

We saw the possibilities with Sean Taylor in the defensive backfield. When LaRon Landry joined the team in 2007, Redskin fans were teased by what might have been.

Washington drafted Landry in 2007, instead of DE Jamaal Anderson or DT Amobi Okoye, to strengthen the back seven.

Jason Taylor's Failure

Greg Blache is a smart, experienced defensive coordinator who fosters a disciplined approach to defense. It works for him, but allows little room for flexibility.

Blache was not flexible when the Skins brought Jason Taylor to town.

Taylor was named to six Pro Bowls as right defensive end. He scored 11 sacks in 2007, the season before joining the Redskins. Taylor was as much a defensive force in 2007 as Haynesworth was in '08. 

Blache asked Taylor to adapt to the Redskins defensive schemes, at left defensive end, instead of adapting the defense to take advantage of Taylor's pass rushing skills. Taylor's performance suffered as much from that as from his freak leg injury.

Yet, Taylor was not the failure Skins fans perceive him to be. Factor Taylor's performance with Demetric Evans and you get 62 tackles and seven sacks from the left defensive end position. That's a productive year if solely credited to either Taylor or Evans. It's just different than expected when Taylor arrived.

I expected to see Taylor pass rush from the right defensive end. My bad.

Will Greg Blache use Haynesworth as a simple upgrade to Anthony Montgomery as he used Jason Taylor to be a simple replacement for Phillip Daniels?

Be forewarned that what Michael Fabiano projects for Jay Cutler, and what we saw with Jason Taylor, may well visit Albert Haynesworth. His stats won't transfer, especially if the Redskins stick to the coverage sacks approach.

With Sean Taylor gone and Albert Haynesworth here, lets hope that Blache goes back to pressure from the front seven.

Albert Haynesworth will thank him. So will we.

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