Albert Haynesworth Released: What This Means for Pats' Defense
In a season where Bill Belichick has released players like Brandon Meriweather, James Sanders, Ty Warren and Leigh Bodden, the sudden release of Albert Haynesworth shouldn't come as a surprise to the New England Patriots community.
When he was on the field, Haynesworth was a lot more effective than his detractors gave him credit for.
While the sack numbers that experts imagined never materialized, Haynesworth was a dominant plug against the run, and a great compliment to the smaller, more athletic starter, Kyle Love.
Although most people expected Haynesworth and Vince Wilfork to occupy the middle of the Pats' defense together, Love's energy and knowledge of the playbook trumped Fat Albert's undeniable talent.
Mike Reiss at ESPNBoston.com tracks player snaps, and he charted Haynesworth on the field for 133 of a possible 561 snaps.
That number is indicative of two things: Haynesworth had a lot of trouble staying healthy this season, and even when he was healthy, the coaching staff did not think it wise to entrust Big Al with a large share of playing time.
Coming out of the bye two weeks ago, Patriots fans had a pretty high confidence about the defense and the team in general. Overall, the record was 5-1, and the supposedly "awful" defense had come alive in wins over the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys.
Haynesworth was considered a big part of the defensive renaissance. Patriots FC Erik Frenz breaks that down here, but I'll give you one tidbit that really sticks out:
Was the release of Big Al warranted?
As for Haynesworth, while it's obvious that he's not the only reason behind the [defensive] improvement, his return coincides perfectly with the improved play on third down, and that has also been where he's contributed the most. During his two-week absence, the Patriots defense gave up 50 percent (12-of-24) of third-down conversions. Since returning to the lineup, they have allowed just 30.43 percent (7-for-23) of their third-down conversions.
It's pretty clear that Haynesworth was having a positive influence on the Patriots' depleted defensive line.
Boy, have things changed since then.
The Pats have lost two straight—one to Ben Roethlisberger's Pittsburgh Steelers and one to Eli Manning's New York Giants—and in both games the defense just couldn't get the job done when it needed to.
At the heart of that failure was Haynesworth.
The big fella had a hard time getting onto the field, especially with the recent returns of defensive linemen Brandon Deaderick and Ron Brace from the PUP list.
After playing just a snap in the second half of the Giants game, Haynesworth was pulled. Belichick later said that it was "rotation related," but anyone who has followed the Patriots in the Era of the Hoodie knows that line is code for "he did something very, very wrong, so I removed him from the game."
With the amount of hoopla surrounding the Haynesworth signing, his release will certainly label his time here as a "bust."
However, if Haynesworth was graded purely for the product on the field, I doubt he would be off the team at this point.
Getting into a tussle with coaching assistant Pepper Johnson couldn't have helped Haynesworth's case, and as always with Coach Belichick, the team comes first. His release is both disheartening and frustrating, but it is also a reminder (yet again) that Belichick bends the rules for no one.
Expect Love, Brace and Deaderick's snaps to increase, with Gerard Warren also possibly reaping the benefits. Brace and Deaderick had already been cutting into Haynesworth's playing time, so it may not be as hard to fill his shoes as you may think.
The defensive line is the only part of the Pats defense that has any semblance of skilled depth players, which should soften the blow.
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